Safety in the mountains

Guidance notes for members and potential members

Introduction

Gwent Mountaineering Club endorses the British Mountaineering Council (BMC)
participation statement:

The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a
danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.

The following notes have been compiled for the benefit of Club members and potential members. In addition to these notes, reference should be made to relevant books, videos, and web pages. Careful preparation can make all the difference to the success of an outing, whether it is a short afternoon stroll or an extended expedition into the mountains. The amount of time spent in planning should be related to the nature and duration of the trip but the principle remains the same: The more thought and care you put into your planning, the more likely you are to enjoy a successful experience.

Safety precautions

Good navigation skills and route planning are paramount to ensuring safety when out in the hills and mountains. Leave details of your intended route and proposed time of return before setting out.

Carry an Emergency Identification Card in an accessible location, such as in the top outside pocket of your rucksack. This card should give your name and emergency contact details e.g., for next of kin. It should preferably be made of plastic or laminated to protect it from the weather. Although modern mobile phones have the capability to store ‘in case of emergency’ (ICE) details, a physical card is preferred because it can be more easily found and used.

Weather

Changes in weather conditions can produce serious problems for the mountaineer. Check
the weather forecast before leaving, using one or more of the wide range of specialist forecasting services for mountain areas, such as the Met Office mountain weather forecasts and the Mountain Weather Information Service.

Remember that the weather in the mountains often differs from that over low country. The main enemy is wind, rain and cold; a deadly combination unless the mountaineer is adequately prepared. Act before the weather dictates its own terms.

Equipment for Mountaineering

Good sound equipment is one of the essentials for mountain safety. Turn to experienced
members for detailed help in choosing the best equipment to suit your needs. Good
equipment suppliers will genuinely attempt to supply the correct equipment for your needs.

Footwear: Members and potential members are advised to wear suitable footwear on the hills that is comfortable to walk in and yet sufficiently robust to offer the support and protection that is required.

Clothing (layering): A layered system of clothing is recommended. This should be sufficient to keep the body temperature within a range of a few degrees to ensure the efficient functioning of the body. According to the weather conditions, insulation may need to be varied by putting on or removing one or more layers of clothing during the course of a day. A suggested layering system is:

  • Base layer next to the skin (wicks away moisture from the skin)
  • Mid layer (insulation layer ‐ may be more than one layer)
  • Outer shell layer (windproof/waterproof jacket and overtrousers ‐ usually breathable fabric such as Goretex)

Clothing (additional): In addition to the suggested layering system, it is useful to carry and use the following items of clothing:

  • Gloves or mittens – including a spare pair in winter
  • Headgear – Sun hat, warm (wool, fleece) hat, and/or balaclava, according to the conditions
  • Gaiters

What to carry

The main thing is to carry as little as possible, however, some things are essential.

  • Map and compass, whistle, phone, watch, basic first aid kit, survival bag, spare laces, torch/head torch, sunglasses, sun cream, food (including extra for emergency), water.
  • Additional winter equipment ‐ ice axe, crampons, goggles.

As noted above, it is recommended to carry some form of identification.

Rock climbing safety

The wearing of a climbing helmet is a personal choice but it is strongly advisable to do so, especially when standing at the foot of climbs.

It is recommended that all climbers should make use of a prusik loop as a method of self‐
protection when abseiling and anyone with limited experience of abseiling should in addition use a safety line.

The decision to lead climb is a personal choice. Advice and training should be sought from experienced climbers before undertaking this aspect of mountaineering.

It is the responsibility of the lead climber to ensure that his/her second is competent at
belaying.

Last revised: September 2022.