Thursday, 10 January 2013

See your way off the hill

First of all a happy new year to everyone.  I hope you had a good festive season and are ready for getting out onto the hills in 2013.

One of the tasks I perform at the MCofS is putting together our "Something for the weekend" safety messages for posting on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.  A recurrent message we put out through the winter months is to carry a torch, and spare batteries, and check that everyone in your party is doing the same.

I fell foul of that final point about three years ago this month.  I had my torch in my rucksack and was carrying spare batteries, so I was pretty confident I wasn't going to get benighted in deepest winter.  However, the mistake I made was to not check that my walking partner that day was also carrying a head torch and spare batteries.  My fault.  I should have remembered to check with him before we set off that day.

We did get down off the hill, but with only one torch between two it took us an extra hour and a half.  Lesson learned!

How many others remember to check with the rest of their party before setting out?  For that matter, how many remember to carry spare batteries with them?

Checking with your party is something you need to do every time you go out, whereas devising a system for carrying spare batteries is something you can do this evening.

I've worked out that you can fit 6 AAA batteries (my head torch uses 3, so enough for two head torches) into an old camera film tub.  Readers under the age of 25 may be wondering what a camera film tub is!  They were common in the days before digital cameras.  We're talking last century.

If you still have an old film tub you can slot the batteries in there this evening and then keep the tub in a place that you won't forget when you pack your rucksack.  Inside your first aid kit is one possibility, or just keep the tub with your torch at all times.

I hope this piece of information will save someone from the slow descent off the hill that I once had.  Being able to see your way safely off the hill might even save your life sometime.

Oh, and just one final thought on this.  It is worth practicing changing head torch batteries in the dark, and the wet, and the cold! 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Autumn and Winter Season at the MCofS

It's the autumn and winter season again, so for all mountaineers it's the time to look forward to, and then actually enjoy snow covered mountains and fantastic views.  Lets hope we get a good winter season with plenty of crisp snow and clear views.  Anyway, autumn and winter is also the time to meet up indoors with like-minded people, be it at film festivals, club talks, safety lectures and so on.

This is an important time of year for the MCofS because this is when we give most of our safety related talks & put on our Winter Skills and Avalanche Awareness courses.  We therefore get out to meet the public on a number of occasions, whether it be at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival, Skills for the Hills talks or the ever popular Winter Safety Lectures.

I will be at a number of these events, so am looking forward to meeting a number of our existing members and hopefully some new members as well.

Communicating our winter safety message is a very important aspect of our work and whilst we never know when that work has prevented a mountain rescue incident, there can be no doubt that the more we are able to deliver that message to the widest possible audience, then the more likely it is that people will be better-informed and less likely to have incidents.

As well as communicating the safety message, which is Heather Morning's role, we also need to communicate the news of where and when the talks and courses will be happening, and that is where I come in.

The Courses and Events page on the MCofS website is the place where we list all of our courses and talks, but we use our website News section, our two e-newsletters, news releases and social media to point people towards our list of forthcoming events.

If you haven't already checked out our upcoming events then do take a look now.  I hope you can get along to one of our talks over the next few weeks and months, and look forward to meeting you if you are going to be attending.

Friday, 8 June 2012


If you're reading this you are probably already aware of the MCofS Searchable Blogs page.  We launched it on Monday 28th May and achieved widespread publicity. When I got into work yesterday (June 7th) I received our Web Stats for the month of May.  The Blogs page was the 7th most visited page in May.  Not bad for a page that had no publicity and just a handful of visitors until the 28th.

The Blogs page has been there for a couple of years, but until May 28th had just been a simple list of links to mountaineering related blogs.  What has brought it to life and made it worthy of promotion is the search facility.

I've had the vision for some time of being able to go onto the Blogs page and search the blogs listed on there for the name of a mountain, a crag, a climb, a person's name or even a piece of equipment.  By incorporating Google Custom Search onto the page it is now possible to do that, and it is great to see that visitors to the MCofS website have instantly recognised the value of this facility.

To achieve 7th place in our monthly list of most visited pages, when the page was only attracting visitors for the last 3.5 days of the month, is pretty impressive.  So, thank you to all those who covered the news of the Blogs page in their publications and everyone who has visited the page.  I hope you continue to use the page and find it useful into the future.

Just in case you haven't seen it, here is a link to the news release.

And just in case you haven't visited it yet, here is a link to the Blogs page.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Winter to Summer in Less Than a Week

What a turnaround in our weather these last few days.  We had a week off recently and got out for three days on the hills.  Corbetts to be more specific.

Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th we were in the Glenfinnan area and managed to take in 5 Corbetts.  Sgurr Ghiubhsachain and Sgorr Craobh a' Chaorainn on the Tuesday and An Stac, Rois-Bheinn and Sgurr na Ba Glaise on the Wednesday.  We enjoyed some sunshine and fantastic views, but it was cold, there were a number of snow showers and the snow was lying to below 2,500 feet.

By Sunday 20th we were down in Dumfries & Galloway and had a very enjoyable walk/run around the circuit of Hart Fell in wall-to-wall sunshine.  The transition from winter to summer had taken place in a matter of a few days.

And now on Friday 25th I find myself at work putting out messages warning of the dangers of hyperthermia, heat stroke and dehydration; oh and adders as well.

Something we have started doing over the last few months is putting out messages on a Friday via Twitter, Facebook and our website, warning of the main danger or hazard that hillgoers are likely to face over the coming weekend.

From the retweets we are getting and the occasional message reaching the BBC Scotland news webpages, we are confident that we are reaching a wide audience with these messages.  By getting these messages out to increasing numbers of walkers and climbers we feel that we should be contributing to improved levels of mountain safety awareness.

Although we will never know it, one or more of these messages may well prevent a mountain rescue incident at some point.

If you do read this blog then do look out for our "Something for the weekend" messages in the future.  Follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook and look out for our postings on Fridays.  Our Twitter Friday safety messages will have the hash tag #sftwe.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Springtime at the MCofS

Well that winter didn't last long. Not even the end of March and already been hill walking in short sleeves. We managed 5 new Corbetts in a mega-weekend to Glen Dessary last week. A 9.5 hour day on Saturday & 12 hour day on Sunday. It was a long time (19 years) since I'd been to Glen Dessary, so good to get reacquainted with one of Scotland's finest mountain areas. There's still so much to do there, so no way I'm going to leave it so long before our next trip there.

Even though it was still March, it was so good to have that extra bit of daylight at the end of the day. Light until 8.00 p.m. Fantastic! From now on the days just get longer, but no matter what the month, there is always that danger of misjudging how long it will take to complete your route and you could end up benighted.

If you follow the MCofS on Facebook and Twitter you will have seen that we've really been pushing the "check your headtorches" message this winter. Take a look at the Mountain Rescue statistics in the 2010 report and you will see that getting benighted is one of the main attributable reasons for incidents involving rescue teams. If everyone in your party has a headtorch with good batteries and spare batteries then you are unlikely to end up benighted and therefore less likely to become involved in a rescue incident.

Even as we go into the summer and enjoy the long evenings, it is still worth remembering the message about always carrying a good headtorch with plenty of battery power available.

As for current work in the MCofS office, we've been busy with several things this week. There have been a few updates on the MCofS Members' Discount Scheme pages on the website. We welcome the Braeside Guest House in Drymen to the Accommodation page and there's a few changes on the Short Term Offers page. Worth a look.

We've also sent out MCofS posters to the members of the Scottish Climbing Walls Network, so if you go to any of these walls look out for these posters.

We've also been promoting our upcoming Navigation courses, so if you are interested in these take a look at:

Unfortunately, the weather looks like returning to form tomorrow, just in time for the weekend, so a chance to rest up after last weekend's exertions. Hopefully this early season heatwave is a taste of the long hot summer of 2012 to come. We have a long list of Corbetts and kayak trips in mind, so more good weather please.

As always, don't forget to check MWIS for the weather forecast before you go out.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The snow & ice are back

Well, winter is here now & like most mountaineers I can't wait for the cold & sunny days to come. The clear air & long-distance views are what I love about winter in the hills. No heat haze to wipe out the distant views, just mountains as far as the eye can see.

Whilst we might be able to see further on a good day in winter, we can't see much at all when the weather clags in, & the length of daylight is significantly shorter during the winter months so the time window to take in the views is squeezed in at both ends. The rewards on a good day are fantastic, but as the MCofS Chief Officer, David Gibson, said in a MCofS news release last week: "
the margin for error is much less than at other times of the year due to the weather, conditions underfoot and limited daylight hours".

The MCofS in the last couple of weeks has announced its Winter Skills & Avalanche Awareness courses as well as the upcoming series of Winter Safety Lectures. Visit our Press Releases page & click on the two most recent entries (2nd & 9th December). I hope that lots of people will sign up for these courses & come along to the lectures. Heather Morning is working hard to get the winter safety message across and her work will hopefully lead to a further reduction in the number of incidents & casualties on the Scottish mountains.

I didn't have time to get out for a proper day on the hill yesterday, but I did go out with Perth Road Runners for their festive run to Loch Ordie above Dunkeld. Long stretches of the Land Rover tracks were covered in ice, so I tried out my new set of Yaktrax Pro ice grips on my running shoes. Wow, to say I was amazed would be a bit of an understatement. I was able to run on the sheet ice as if it were a pavement, & that was on the downhill stretches as well. In fact the sheet ice was easier to run on than the chossy snow in the middle of the track or the variable vegetation at the side of the track. My running on the sheet ice certainly drew the attention of passing walkers who probably thought I was just wearing a pair of running shoes!

Although he's not a runner, I've bought a pair of Yaktrax Pros for my Dad's Christmas present this year. Don't tell him, but I saved a couple of pounds by getting a MCofS discount on them. If you're still looking for presents then don't forget to use your MCofS membership card to claim some tasty discounts. Take a look at the Discounts area of our website before you head to the shops this week.

If you are stuck for a gift for a mountaineer in your life then don't forget the Gift of Membership offer that we have at the MCofS. This is a great way for you to buy a friend or relative a year's membership of the MCofS at a very reasonable price. Check out:

Anyway, I hope you have a great Christmas & New Year, & that you get out to enjoy some time in the hills over the festive season. I also hope you will get along to a Winter Safety Lecture & use your membership card to get some discounts on your Christmas shopping.

All the best for 2012.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Summer into Autumn

That was a great spell of weather we had last week, but talk about having to wait for some decent warm conditions. I must admit to giving up on our Scottish summer & heading off abroad for a week amongst some warm mountains. We had an amazing week in Slovenia & made it to the top of Triglav. Great mountain & some fantastic views. Our base was the village of Ribcev Laz at the eastern end of Lake Bohinj. It's a great area & anyone into their mountains should aim to go there at some point.

Getting back home in mid-September I started to make autumn plans for a few Corbetts, but a break in the weather provided the opportunity to get out midweek & grab a bit of late summer warmth. It's a long story but I ended up cycling the Formartine & Buchan Way from Dyce to Peterhead. Not that well known mountain route, but a great way to spend my birthday when I was in the north east anyway. A lot of good work is going into developing & promoting Scotland's Great Trails so it was good to check one of them out.

Now that we really are heading into autumn it is back to plans for Corbetts & I can feel a trip to Ardgour coming on. Meanwhile at work our thoughts are also turning to autumn & winter. The MCofS's winter safety initiatives are almost ready to go. We're at the Mountain Safety Day in Stirling tomorrow, then our autumn & winter courses are filling up quickly & we'll soon announce the dates & venues for the Winter Lecture Series. Keep an eye on our website & e-newsletters for this information as it becomes available.

On my own Membership Development side of the MCofS's work, today has been an exciting day as we launched a new membership initiative called The Gift of Membership. You can now buy someone special to you a year's membership of the MCofS. Whether it be for Xmas, birthday, anniversary or Valentine's Day, this is a superb gift that provides the recipient with the many benefits of MCofS membership, & you get to choose a free gift for that special person, so there is something tangible for them to get on the day.

Finally, a big CONGRATS to the G-Force who completed his first round of the Munros last weekend. Chased on by Wispa the Wonder Whippet, this was one driven man determined to get his name onto the Munros list. Read all about it on his partner's website.