So much has been written recently about safety in the mountains, in particular in relation to a number of winter deaths in the mountains in Scotland. I think as mountain people, deeply ingrained in belief in the value of free and open mountain access our general reaction is often that, “these things will happen”, that we know and accept the risks. This argument perhaps stands up where the incidents occur to experienced and knowledgeable people who were facing known risks for an activity they love.
However out walking in the Lakes over this bank holiday weekend I was struck by a real challenge to my natural natural reaction to field safety as I was passed by streams of inappropriately dressed and prepared people. Trainers and jogging bottoms were out in force, axes and crampons rare sights and clearly there was a lack of understanding of the potential dangers.
As ever I felt that confliction – on the one hand between a natural aversion to ‘nanny stating’, ‘elf and safety’ and the joy at seeing people out in the outdoors, undeterred by the weather – on the other there was a fear that too many of these people lacked the basic skills, inexperience and crucially judgement to be out in the conditions they found themselves in.
So what is the solution, I guess it will always smack of bias when as a training organisation we talk about the importance of outdoor skills training but that has to be a critical part. But how do you share that general knowledge as widely as is required? Should there be some restriction, some level of required training – this cuts against the grain in so many ways. Perhaps the key is building these skills in early, at school so that we can increase the base level of skills, knowledge and awareness to allow more and more people to enjoy the mountains with both freedom and safety.