Being a man and being on the phone are the biggest dangers in the Scottish mountains, says an expert | Mountaineering
Being a man, not being able to look beyond your mobile phone and not knowing the avalanche forecast: these are critical risk factors in the Scottish mountains, according to the country’s top climbing expert.
Heather Morning, who took up her post as chief instructor at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s national outdoor training centre, earlier this month, is urging visitors to ‘think winter’ this spring , as Police Scotland revealed on Friday that mountain rescues had increased by 40% in recent weeks as climbers misinterpreted dangerous conditions on the peaks. Seven people have died on the hills this month alone.
Morning, who is based in Aviemore, 50 miles northeast of Fort William, said: ‘In March we have longer daylight hours, and in the glen here it feels a lot like summer. People are unaware that they might still need an ice ax and crampons at height.
While snow is still falling in the Cairngorms, warmer days and freezing nights combine to make conditions even more treacherous, with meltwater turning into hard ice.
“Inevitably, we see deaths of people walking on hard old snow, taking off and hitting rocks or cliffs. Loss of life is complex, but there are certainly patterns. Virtually all deaths in the Scottish highlands are male. Men over 60 are the demographic that struggles.”
In her previous role as mountain safety adviser at Mountaineering Scotland, Morning analyzed data spanning a seven-year period to the start of 2019 and found that women accounted for just 10 of the 114 fatalities.
She said: “You’re making generalizations about male and female attributes when it comes to risk taking and obviously that doesn’t reflect everyone, but from the many years I’ve spent training people, guys tend to overestimate their abilities and try, and don’t think they need formal professional training, while women tend to swing the other way.
Women, in Morning’s experience, have much less confidence in their own abilities and are more willing to take, say, a navigation course, “which some think is out of place, when it is the absolute cornerstone of mountain safety”. She estimates that around 25% of mountain rescue incidents are the result of “the basic navigational error of putting people in the wrong place”.
This male reluctance to learn about navigation overlaps with the assumption among many young people that all they need is an app. “As a youngster your whole life revolves around your mobile phone, so it seems very natural to take it into the mountain environment, when a map and a compass seem outdated,” she said. .
It’s another challenge to educate people who don’t see outdoor resources as relevant to them. “If we take the classic example of someone coming up from the south to climb Ben Nevis – I suspect most people you meet on the main trail will never have heard of avalanche forecasting.”
Morning, who initially trained as a typist before being introduced to the Mountain Leader program while volunteering at a local youth club, believes that if women increasingly embrace outdoor adventure as than men, this equality does not translate to those applying leadership qualifications.
She has advised Bonnie Boots, the Glasgow-based group which runs female-only mountain walking sessions for ethnic women, and has further plans for a training program to encourage more Bame women down the path. leadership.
His decades in the mountains taught him never to make assumptions about an individual’s climbing abilities, and that extends to dogs. She recalls her initial surprise when a “tiny little Chihuahua” arrived with its owner for a boating course she was taking in the Ochills.
“Oh my god, that was as tough as nails. The thing came off the dirty hill, after it had a bullet and it did something like 18 Munros. So never judge a book by its cover,” a she declared.