Self Reliance

Here in the UK, we are lucky to have a network of Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT) around the country. All teams are staffed by volunteers and funded by donations from the public. Team members train regularly to maintain their skills and learn new ones. They turn out at any time of the day or night, in any weather and to the hill-goer, are often the only emergency service that can reach them in an emergency. When called out, each of the team members puts their lives at risk to save a total stranger.

Calling out an MRT should be a last resort, not something that should be taken lightly, "Willy Nilly" or when temporarily disorientated. Hillwalkers should be well equipped; with sufficient kit to them keep warm and dry with enough food to maintain energy levels and with enough navigational ability not to get lost. 

The emphasis, when out on the mountain, is that of self-reliance. You may have heard stories about people becoming lost on a hill as they have no map and compass, and their only course of action is to phone mountain rescue. That is an irresponsible and dangerous position to find oneself in, and one that could have been foreseen and avoided. Self-reliance is about planning and taking the kit and skills to complete it successfully.

Emergencies can and do happen (I know from personal experience). Sometimes; a situation may have degraded to the extent that the only appropriate course of action is to call for help. Recognise that situation quickly and know the proper time to call for mountain rescue, before a bad condition goes severely wrong. A life could depend on it.


Storm Shelter

Storm shelters, also known as mountain shelters, bothy bags or group shelters, but all names refer to the same piece of kit.

I first came across one of these whiles on my BEL course (Basic Expedition Leader) on the Pentland Hills, many years ago.  It was a wet and windy day, and the Instructor got us all undercover using a storm shelter while we had lunch.  Within 15 minutes or so, I was so warm underneath this shelter; I had to take my jacket off.   Since that day, whenever I go out with a group, I ensure that I have my group shelter packed!

Storm shelters come in various sizes, from one person, up to eight or ten. If leading a group, you will need to ensure that you have a correct ratio of shelters to people.  If not on a cold, windy raining day, you may have a few disgruntled participants :-)



Once you realise you are not sure where you are, there are a few steps to go through. The first thing is to STOP where you are. No good walking on aimlessly.

1) Look around for features. Look around you to see if there are features that you will probably be able to see on the map. Are you on a path? What is close to you, what is in the middle distance, and what can you see in the far distance?

2) Where were you when you last knew where you were? How long ago was that? What direction have you been walking in since then? How far might you have walked in that time? What have you passed since and when? 

3) Put all that together with what you can see on the map. It is a good idea to start with your last known position/location and work forwards following your route recalling what you passed. All being well, you should be able to identify your position with ease using the features you identified in step 1.

Pay particular attention to scale. What if that doesn’t work? If you are getting nowhere, you may wish to consider one of the following courses of action

1) Move around a bit to see if you can see more helpful features. Don’t go far but moving a short distance will often reveal new features. Move to higher ground for better sight of features.

2) Backtracking to a place that you knew where you were. Learning how to relocate is more about looking around you rather than looking at the map. When lost, inexperienced navigators tend to start studying the map intently looking for clues.

Look around first, look at the map second. 

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