Scottish mountains in lockdown: Phase 1 advice from MRTs
Since the Scottish Government announced Scotland’s four phases for coming out of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, there have been plenty of discussions on-line about what this means for walkers, mountain bikers and climbers etc. Does phase 1’s “you can drive around five miles to go for a hike” mean we are allowed into the hills and mountains again?
Throughout lockdown, the Mountain Rescue Teams and Scottish mountaineering groups have urged people not to access the larger hills and mountains. There have been valid reasons for this and the majority of outdoors people appear to have respected the request.
The newly reducing lockdown restrictions revealed by the Scottish Government have prompted Scottish Mountain Rescue to re-evaluate their guidelines. This is what they look like.
As a basic overview, it means that for some people, who live close enough, the mountains are open again, while for others, we must still wait.
Phase 1 statement from Scottish Mountain Rescue
We would like to start by thanking you all for your continued support and keeping us quiet since March. We have been as eager as everyone else to see what was included in the Scottish Government route map. Below is a Q&A on where things now stand.
Can I visit the Scottish Mountains again at Phase 1? (Currently due to begin on May 28.)
If you are lucky enough to meet the Scottish Government travel guidelines for Phase 1 (permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise but advice to stay within a short distance of your local community – broadly within 5 miles), then yes, welcome back!
Nicola Sturgeon says the government is asking people to “stay fairly local”. Five miles is not going to be a strict limit, she says, but is intended to provide a guide.
“What we don’t want is for people to congregate in tourist hot-spots,” says the First Minister.
Please so travel by walking or cycling where possible.
When will people from further afield be allowed to visit the hills?
We don’t know, that is down to the Scottish Government travel guidelines but we really hope it won’t be long. We will continue to work with other national organisations to ensure we can see you in the hills just as soon as it is safe to do so.
Are we back to normal when we visit the hills?
No! We need to work together and remember what we are trying to achieve to make this work – and particularly at this stage, when so many still can’t access the hills. If you do live near enough, remember how lucky you are.
Are SMR teams responding to callouts?
Yes. A lot of work has gone into new procedures to try to make callouts as safe as possible for our team members and casualties. We also now have an adequate stock of basic PPE for a few rescues for each team.
Though, to be honest, we are slightly nervous, particularly if we get a sudden rush of rescues at any point. In that case, we may then struggle to cope.
Should I feel guilty if I need to call MR?
No, accidents happen. We would be concerned if you didn’t call us. We are here to help, not judge. Remember, in an outdoor emergency to dial 999, ask for Police, then Mountain Rescue.
Are rescues the same as before?
No, they will be much slower, with fewer people, more walking and carrying for us and, on some occasions, we may decide that we can help by phone only.
What can I do to help make it work?
Self reliance. Plan your day carefully, stick to the type of days that you know you have done safely for several years already. Be sensitive to any local community you are visiting because they are also worried.
What activities can I undertake in the hills?
“Non contact outdoor activities,” has been stated by the government and hiking is specifically mentioned as an example. We understand “contact” to refer to physical contact with other people.
Do I need to take any extra equipment?
You may well have to wait for longer than we would normally like for a rescue, so a group shelter or survival bag, extra warm clothing and food are a good idea. Assume you will be out overnight if that helps to plan, although we hope it won’t be the case.
Also as an added suggestion, take a small hand sanitiser, face covering such as a buff and thin rubber gloves.
How else can I help?
If you are reading this we suspect you will be pretty well prepared already. But we are concerned that there is a group of people, who don’t usually go to the hills, who are keen to come and experience the benefits of hill walking, so please share this to anyone you know of and direct them to Mountaineering Scotland website for guidance.
Numerous outdoor sports bodies are all working hard to produce more detailed guidance and we will share that as we get it.
Key points of Scottish Mountain Rescue guidelines: Phase 1
- Yes the hills and mountains are open but only if you can reach then within five miles of your home.
- Walk or cycle to reach the mountains, where possible.
- Choose routes that you know well – and that do not require you to make difficult decisions.
- Remember to pack extra kit in case of an accident because rescue teams may take longer than normal to reach you.
- Mountain rescue teams are now better prepared for rescuing people but they are still nervous due to continued risk of Covid-19.
- Anyone who does not live close to the mountains needs to continue to be patient. The hills and mountains will be open to everyone as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.