EUMC Safety Guidelines
- Warning: The EUMC will give you the opportunity to explore some of the most wild, remote and beautiful landscapes in the UK, and potentially further afield. For many, the attractions of mountaineering lie in the adventure, challenges and lack of rules associated with it. However, it is an inherently risky activity and it is important that you are aware of the many dangers that exist in the mountains. Full competence can only be gained through experience, and even the most accomplished mountaineers make mistakes. Despite this, there are measures you can take which will greatly reduce the risk to you and your friends. No one in the club is qualified to teach skills. However, most people will be more than happy to share their knowledge with you. Don't be afraid to ask.
- Equipment: You do not have to be rich to enjoy the mountains, but there are a few pieces of equipment which are essential for your own safety. In Scotland the mountains can be a serious undertaking and weather can change rapidly: you should be prepared for the worst. The following are essential:
- Walking boots
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Warm clothes and woolly hat
- Map and compass
- Survival bag
- First aid kit
- Whistle, torch and watch
- Food, especially high energy
- Crampons and axe in winter (can be hired from the Gear Store)
You are responsible for maintaining your own equipment and keeping it in safe working condition. This is especially important for climbing gear where malfunction can have fatal consequences.
The EUMC strongly advocates the use of helmets on ALL climbing routes.
- Teamwork: In bad conditions on the hill or when out climbing, the members of a group rely on each other completely. Teamwork should start from the word 'go', so for example when you're packing your sack in the morning you should check your companions have remembered their waterproofs. Throughout the day be aware of people who are struggling and always put the safety needs of others before the mountaineering ambitions of your own. Do tell someone with you about any medical conditions you suffer from and what they should do if you become ill, for example, where you keep your inhaler if you are asthmatic.
- Progressive learning: There are many risks which those unaccustomed to the Scottish mountains will not be aware of. Hazards include rapidly changing weather, unfamiliar terrain and difficult navigation. Inexperience in the mountains is a major cause of accidents. Obviously the only way to gain experience is by getting out and practicing. Start by going on walks with well-signed footpaths where you can practice skills, such as map-reading, before attempting unmarked routes where it is essential you know how to use a map and compass. Before you set out, make sure you take the right equipment, know how/when to use it (ask advice if necessary), and are aware of the risks (see our Risk Assessment here). In winter, before committing to long and serious walks, practice using your axe to break a fall on a safe snow slope with a run-out, and walking in your crampons. By following a progressive approach to learning, you can gradually build up the experience needed for the more challenging, severe and committing peaks and ridges.
- Climbing: Climbing has additional dangers to those associated with hillwalking, and indeed, many people enjoy the sport because of the sense of risk involved. However, the decision to climb is totally up to you and the Club cannot be held responsible for those wishing to climb and any of your actions. Becoming a safe and competent climber requires skills and knowledge. Follow the progressive approach to learning, start in the safer environment of the indoor climbing wall where you can practice moves and learn your own capabilities before moving on to real rock. Don't be afraid to ask for advice and don't do anything you are not comfortable with.
- Winter: Winter in Scotland is an awesome and beautiful world that attracts many people to the hills. However, with winter comes a whole new set of dangers. Winter mountaineering requires preparation, good equipment, additional skills, such as crampon use, ice-axe arrest and avalanche awareness, judgement and experience. These require practice; be realistic about your capabilities. Conditions can be harsh and change rapidly, and navigation is more difficult than in summer. Above the snowline you must carry an axe and crampons. However, these are useless to the point of being dangerous if you don't know how to use them. Make sure the crampons are adjusted for your boots before you leave. The Club recommends attending a winter skills course for those new to Scottish winters. In addition the club organises an avalanche awareness lecture at the end of the first term. If in doubt, ask for advice.
- Emergencies: ALWAYS FILL OUT A ROUTECARD BEFORE YOU SET OFF.
- In the event of injury either to your party or a party you encounter, administer first aid where possible but only if you are not putting yourself or anyone else in additional danger. Assess the situation and decide whether you can get off the hill yourself or need to summon help. The International Distress Signal is 6 shouts OR torch flashes OR whistle blasts repeated at one minute intervals. The reply is 3 shouts, flashes or blasts at minute intervals. Mountain rescue can be called by dialling 999 and asking for police. Don't forget to have the 6 figure grid reference of where the accident is and any obvious landmarks, as well as time/nature of the accident and number of people involved. Remember that it may be several hours before they can reach you and there is a further risk of exposure during this time unless you take careful precautions. If in doubt about the best procedure, the mountain rescue will be able to give you advice. If at all possible, send someone back to the campsite to alert them to the incident and avoid them initiating another rescue.
- If you become lost, firstly try working out where you are using any landmarks and the map. If this still fails, retrace your steps until you get back to a place you recognise on the map. If you find yourself in a white-out or darkness, only continue if you are on an obvious path or are certain of the route. It is very difficult to navigate in either of these situations and very easy to fall or stumble over the edge of a precipice. Consider seeking shelter and waiting for daylight before continuing.
- Enjoyment: while these points are all vital to reduce the risk of accident and injury in the mountains, remember you are out to have fun.