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Call For Mountain Walkers To Learn To Use Paper Maps

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Mountain and hill walkers in the UK have been urged to learn how to use paper maps and compasses, after rescue service callouts have increased over the past few years. The Guardian reports that The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association (LDSMRA) have made the call out after a fatal incident on Christmas Day.

The chair of LDSMRA, Richard Warren, said that about a quarter of the callout incidents would have been avoidable if people had better navigational skills. He urged walkers not to rely on electronic devices, but to learn how to use a paper map and compass as well. Phone batteries can drain faster in colder weather, and the signal can be patchy in hilly areas.

Since the Covid pandemic, more people have discovered the joy of the great outdoors, which of course is a positive development. However, inexperienced walkers can underestimate the amount of planning and preparation that safe hill and mountain walking requires, particularly in wintertime.

Richard Warren said: “What we’re trying to avoid is people just relying on their mobile phones, and getting them to learn to use a map and compass.” He added that while electronic maps can be a useful tool, they should always have a backup battery, and walkers should always carry a paper map and learn how to use a compass.

In wintertime, it is especially important to prepare properly for a walk, due to the shorter days and harsher weather conditions. The safety campaign group AdventureSmart advises walkers to always plan their route on a paper OS map in advance, and make sure that they allow enough time to complete it during daylight hours.

Mobiles should be charged, but not replied on as a sole means of communication of navigation. Paul Donavan, co-project lead at AdventureSmart, said: “If [walkers] are reliant on their smartphone without any backup there’s a chance of something happening as a result.”

He added: “It’s something that’s been more obvious to us over the last 12 to 18 months as more are venturing into hills and Covid has changed the demographic of people venturing into hills and outdoors.”

Walkers are also advised to make sure that their chosen route is suitable for the skill and fitness levels of everyone in the group. Scrambling routes that are classed as Grade 1 or 2 can become advanced climbing routes in slippery winter weather, for example.

The weather forecast should be followed closely to make sure that it is safe to venture onto higher mountainous areas. If high winds, fog, or heavy snow is forecast or sets in as you progress your walk, consider postponing it or turning back.

As well as the correct navigational tools, walkers should always carry a head torch and spare batteries, and know how to use the emergency distress signal. They should also carry plenty of energy rich food and warm and cold drinks, and pack spare waterproof and warm clothing in their rucksacks.

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