The darker evenings have caught me unawares a couple of times recently. Fortunately, I've not been far from home and I've had access to lights for my bike so I've coped with relative safety. But being caught in the dark on the hills in Scotland is never a good idea. Here the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) offers 10 tips for staying safe in the mountains.
10-point checklist for winter walkers
1. Check that your head torch and GPS batteries are in good condition. Renew them if they're fading and always carry a spare set of batteries in your rucksack. Always check that everyone you go on the hill with has a head torch.
2. Carry a mobile phone whenever possible, but be aware that you won't always get reception in remote places. Register with the SMS Emergency Text Service by visiting www.emergencysms.org.uk.
3. Carry an emergency survival bag or bivvy shelter with you in winter.
4. Check that your crampons fit your boots before using them, and get into the habit of putting them on before you reach icy ground.
5. Carry your ice axe and know how to use it. Why not attend a MCofS Winter Skills Course?
6. Carry a large enough rucksack in winter. Using the same rucksack that you carry in summer is a recipe for an uncomfortable day when you are carrying extra winter kit.
7. Carry sufficient extra layers of clothing in winter. The temperature drops quickly as darkness falls and you should plan for unexpected delays and the possibility that you could be out on the hill for an extended period in the event of an incident.
8. Always check the mountain weather forecast before going out and be prepared to change your plans.
9. Always check the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service avalanche forecast and modify your route when the forecast indicates avalanche conditions on your planned route.
10. Know when to turn back. The summit is only the half-way point of your journey.
MCofS Mountain Safety Adviser, Heather Morning, said: "Now that the clocks have turned back it is time for anyone who goes out onto the Scottish hills in winter to give serious thought to preparing themselves and their kit for the season ahead. If there are one or two points in this list of ten that you hadn't previously thought about then do something about it before your next trip to the hills."
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