next sunday it'll be dark before 5 o'clock!

With just a few days to go before the clocks go back (2.00 a.m. Sunday 29th October) Buxton Mountain Rescue Team wants to remind walkers to take special care.   Every year the sudden shortening of daylight hours catches folk out and leaves them struggling to find their way off the hill in the dark, often resulting in a call-out for the local rescue teams.  

The hills of the Peak District are wonderful places to be and getting out into the great outdoors has proven health benefits.  Thousands of walkers will have a great time with each visit but statistics show that there will be some who don’t give the hills and dales the respect they demand.  A lack of simple preparation can result in their day going horribly wrong.   

Experienced walkers will know the benefit of consulting a weather forecast before setting out.  Bad weather doesn’t have to mean no walk, it may just mean choosing a route more suited to the conditions.  

Do you have a map of the walk?  By map we mean an Ordnance Survey map, which has served the rambler well since trig points were first surveyed in 1935.  Look after a map and it can last for years, becoming an old friend that you get to know and understand well.  Maps printed off the internet are likely to become just pieces of sodden paper very quickly.  A map in a guide book will show only the intended walk, which is not very helpful if you stray off route and you don’t know where you are. 

Do you carry a compass?  More importantly, do you know how to use a compass?  Not surprisingly, poor navigation is the biggest cause of getting lost!  On a Peak District boggy plateau there are very few recognisable features, especially in low cloud or darkness.  Basic navigation skills with a map and compass can save you a lot of excess walking and make for a much more enjoyable day.  

Okay, so you have an expensive electronic gadget, which perhaps shows you exactly where you are and in which direction you should walk.  Some of these can be complicated to work so it’s always best to practice somewhere before you really need it in earnest.  Does it work in the cold and wet or when the batteries go flat?  Does it bounce if dropped on a rock?  If it needs a phone signal you may have a problem on top of the moors or down in the dales where reception can be patchy or even none existent. 

Is your clothing suitable?  Windproof, waterproof and warm?  If injury or poor navigation forces you to stay still, even for a short period of time, the body quickly chills and hypothermia can set in quickly without you even noticing.   A small survival shelter-tent costs just a few £s  and will make life a lot more comfortable if you do need to stay put for  awhile.  These are usually brightly coloured so may also improve your chances of being found quickly.   A little extra clothing and a hat and gloves are a good idea too.  

Do you carry the basics for a safe day in the hills?  A torch, a whistle, extra food to boost your energy, and enough fluid to keep you hydrated?   A torch or headlamp isn’t just for you to see by, it helps us see you too. 

If you do get lost, have an injury or become ill, do you know what to do and how to summon help?   Take a look at “Hill Safety” on the home page.   If you get into trouble and you think you might need help then call earlier rather than later.  Requesting mountain rescue does not always mean that a rescue team will need to come running out.  In many cases a little advice and reassurance will sort the problem.

Basic rules:  Map, Compass, Torch and Whistle EVERY trip.

Be one of the thousands who will have a safe and fun day; not that one in ten-thousand who will regret getting out of bed that morning.  Enjoy the hills safely.

Photo credit: BMRT.   When it goes dark on Kinder, it really does go dark!    

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