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John Kelly
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5 Walks In The Yorkshire Dales

 

 Safety

Much of being safe is common sense.

You must be properly equipped (see Choosing Equipment). The harsher the conditions either due to altitude or season, the more important this becomes. Pretty can become perilous very quickly.

Do not underestimate the debilitating effects of walking into a strong wind which will be exacerbated by rain/snow/hail. Bear in mind the effects of wind chill. In still air a temperature of 0 C feels like  0 C. If there is a wind of ten knots (which is only classed as a gentle breeze) it will feel the same as -5 C. At 25 knots (a fresh to strong breeze) the effect falls to  -12 C.  If your clothing gets wet, the effect is worse. The wind can also make you veer off course. Put waterproof clothing on sooner rather than later.

I have seen people walking up Striding Edge in the Lake District in denim jacket and jeans, trainers, no waterproofs and only a bottle of Coke as provisions. AND, it was raining! This is foolhardy in the extreme and as well as creating personal risk, also potentially risks the safety of rescuers. Striding Edge

Do not attempt exposed ridge walks in high winds. Whatever wind effects you can feel at low level, they will be magnified at altitude. Ideally if conditions are poor, abandon the walk. The mountain will still be there tomorrow.

Do not tackle snow/ice covered mountains unless you have crampons and an ice axe and know how to use them

If on a snow covered mountain, be very wary of approaching an edge. Snow may have blown into an overhanging cornice which from the surface looks solid but through which you can fall with ease!

Take sunglasses especially in snowy weather or snow goggles to combat glare. These can also be useful if walking into a hail storm.

Check the weather before you go. See:

 

Striding Edge

If you are responsible for leading a group, do not assume everyone is properly equipped. Find out.

Walking Time Calculator

A crucial element of safety is not attempting something which is beyond your or your group's capabilities or endurance. You might sometimes see 4 mph quoted as walking speed. On a flat pavement, this is an impressive pace and not one you are likely to achieve cross country and certainly not uphill. In this context a useful guide to how long a walk may take is the walking time calculator known as Naismith's Rule. Naismith, a mountaineer, originally stated you should assume a speed of  "3 M.P.H. + 1/2 hour for every 1000 ft. climbed". He was however a very fit walker!

To convert this to take account of metric maps, the equivalent is 1 minute for each 10 meters of height gain, plus the time for linear distance. To assess height gain, count the contour lines (check that the contours are 10 meters apart). Add this to your overall time. Some people also add time for descent on the basis of 1 minute for each 20 meters of descent of average descent.

Speed across the ground otherwise depends upon the terrain, the weather, how many photographs you stop to take, lunch stops etc. Your speed is likely to be between 1.9 and 3 miles per hour (3 and 5 km per hour) but only experience will tell you. Assume slower speeds initially.

Use the map to monitor your progress against your route. This will show you how far you have walked and more importantly where you are and how far to the finish. It is worth working out compass bearings from strategic points on a walk (e.g. from a trig. point) before a walk and writing them on a piece of paper to slip into your map case. It is much easier and with less chance of error to do this in the comfort of your home/car than in a howling gale with the rain beating down on a mountain top!

Take a watch, especially in winter, and note the time when you set off and periodically as you walk so that progress is monitored against available daylight. Avoid walking in the dark, even with a good torch. The harsh light plays tricks with shadows, hollows and rocks and you could easily trip.

If possible, do not walk alone.

If walking with a group, especially if planning a fairly severe walk, it is worth having an early escape route (short cut) in mind if the weather becomes inclement or any member of your party becomes exhausted. The group should always walk at the pace of the slowest and stay together, or at least no-one should be alone out of sight of other group members. If the group becomes "strung out", stop periodically to allow everyone to catch up and make sure all are accounted for.

You may see advice to the effect of leaving a note in your car of your intended route, expected time of return etc. Unfortunately in modern times, this effectively tells a car thief how long he has to steal your car or contents. However, if staying in hotel/B & B, it would be worth advising them. Perhaps tell a friend.

In the mountains, beware of avalanches after snowfalls. The photograph below shows the aftermath of a dramatic avalanche on Helvellyn. Anyone beneath it or stood on top at the crucial moment would probably have come to a sticky end. As you can see, the snow projected a considerable distance from the actual edge of the summit. Beware!

Avalanche at summit of Helvellyn. Copyright LDNPA

Beware also of cornices (overhangs) of snow on to which you might walk and fall through or which might snap off. The photograph below is a scary example of an accident waiting to happen! The individual probably did not realise what was (or was not!) beneath.

Man on a cornice. Copyright Dr Henning Wackerhage

If visiting Scotland, see the Scottish Avalanche Information Service

Never get between a horse/cow and its young and never surprise an animal especially from behind. If you are not certain the animal has seen you say something to alert it - "Hello Mr. Horse" will do.

If you are walking with a dog, this can spook cows, especially with young. If they charge, they will be chasing the dog. Abandon the dog. You will not outrun them but the dog will. I have heard it said that a cow will not charge a person against a wall as they know a wall hurts! I have never had to try this out!! 

If faced with a steep climb or descent where you have to use your hands, pack away walking poles, cameras, GPS receivers etc to leave your hands free. Always try to choose your routes so that steep rock scrambles are dealt with as an ascent rather than a descent as this way you can see where you will put your feet. If forced to descend, treat it as you would a ladder and come down backwards so that the maximum area of your foot is available for purchase.

Finally, an almost silly safety issue - until it happens! Some laces on boots are quite long so that when tied in a bow, even a double bow, a large loop results. It is very easy for this loop to catch in the lugs on the opposite boot as you walk resulting in a very unexpected and incredibly fast headlong meeting with the ground (as my wife can testify - and it hurts - she got the cuts and bruises to prove it!!!). Either shorten the laces, tie them in a triple or even quadruple bow to keep the loops small or tuck them in somehow.

Getting Lost - separate page

Emergencies

A mobile phone can be invaluable to summon assistance. Make sure it is fully charged and preferably (and to maintain the peace of the countryside) keep it switched off to conserve the power until you need it. Mobile phone signals can be erratic in remote country, steep valleys, gorges or mountains. You need line of sight to the mast. It could be that climbing to a more exposed spot will increase reception chances.

The various mobile phone companies publish maps which show coverage but these cannot identify individual black spots. Mobile companies have agreed to field each others emergency calls so the fact you do not have a signal from your own provider may not prevent an emergency call.

Dial 999 (in the UK) or 112 (anywhere else or indeed the UK - it is an international agreement) and ask for the police who will contact the relevant mountain rescue organisation. In the UK, this is a free service run by volunteers but beware that in some places abroad there can be significant costs against which you might want to insure. Find out before you go. Ask for police not ambulance as the ambulance service currently require a postcode to function - the Ramblers are currently campaigning to get the ambulance service to be able to respond to OS references. The police will call out the nearest mountain rescue service. An accurate description of your location (preferably an Ordnance Survey reference) is obviously preferable.

There is now an Emergency SMS Service which is for deaf, hard of hearing and speech-impaired people in the UK to text messages to the UK 999 service. It will be passed to the police, ambulance, fire rescue, or coastguard as appropriate. You must register your phone with them first.

Know where you are through monitoring progress on your map. You can then provide an exact location and OS reference. A GPS reading is also useful.

The UK mountain distress signal is six steady blasts of your whistle (or six torch flashes at night), wait for one minute and repeat.- keep doing this until you are found. The response is three flashes or blasts of the whistle, pause for one minute then three again. 

If there are three or more in the party, one should stay with an injured person, while the other plots the exact location, notes the injuries and goes for help.

If a rescue helicopter is in sight and you need its assistance, raise your arms imitating a "Y". If you do not need that assistance and it looks like landing, one arm down and the other up imitating a "N" is the signal.

Outdoor First Aid - Will4Adventure is a provider of Immediate Temporary Care (ITC) first aid courses offering a selection of excellent hands-on first aid training that will take you from the office to the wilderness.

Ticks

If you find a tick attached to your skin, it is important not to brush it off and leave the head  nor should its body be squeezed, to avoid the risk of infection. It should be removed with a fine pair of tweezers or a special tick removing tool. Lyme disease can be spread by ticks. Symptoms can be wide ranging, so if you feel in any way unwell after being bitten or have any unusual symptoms, seek medical advice. Further information is available at: www.bada-uk.org and  www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk

All information on this site is given in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of any damage, loss or injury which might result from acting on it.