Can we still travel to the hills?

Arrochar Mountain Rescue Team on a recent exercise on Beinn Ime.

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Now that we are in a new period of lockdown, can we still travel to the hills for exercise?

Scottish Mountain Rescue, which represents 24 of the country’s volunteer mountain rescue teams, has published a few pointers based on Scottish Government guidance.

The answer to the question really is – it depends how close you live to the hills.

Scottish Mountain Rescue distils the latest government guidance to a number of key points, as follows:

To minimise the risk of spreading the virus, you must stay at home as much as possible.

By law, in a level four area you can only leave your home (or garden) for an essential purpose. Examples of reasonable excuses to go out include local outdoor recreation, sport or exercise, walking, cycling, golf, or running that starts and finishes at the same place, which can be up to five miles from the boundary of your local authority area.

Though you can leave home for these purposes, you should stay as close to home as possible. Travel no further than you need to, to reach a safe, non-crowded place to exercise in a socially-distanced way.

Up to two people from two separate households can meet outdoors for sport, exercise or social interaction.

Scottish Mountain Rescue has stressed that while mountain rescue teams are still responding in lockdown, Covid-19 has had an impact. In particular, rescues will take longer normal.

It also advises:

  • PPE is designed for indoor environments, it does not work effectively in the mountains in winter.
  • Winter callouts are manpower intensive and hard work (lots of heavy breathing).
  • It is unlikely that rescue team or the casualty can effectively be protected if either a team member or the casualty is already infected. Rescue teams work hard to manage risk, but Covid-19 is not a risk we can effectively manage on winter rescues and it will be luck whether rescuers and rescued get infected or not.

If you are allowed and able to visit the hills, don’t push your limits or the conditions; take extra emergency clothing and food; and follow the Thinkwinter guidance. (www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and…/thinkwinter)

If anyone needs help on the hills, call 999 then ask for police, then ask for mountain rescue.