Produced in association with GripClad
Taking to the outdoors, whether on a big adventure or a regular stroll is not without its peril. It is, after all, a dangerous business stepping out your front door.
We all know about the dangers of rock falls and falling from heights. Such perils are self-evident. But as Britain's countryside becomes an ever more desirable destination with holiday-makers, more and more people are taking to the hills and mountains and not all of them are prepared. Data from Mountain Rescue for England & Wales (MREW) shows that an increase in visitors results in an increase in accidents on the trails and hillsides. In fact, there were only 14 days in 2016 without a mountain rescue callout in England and Wales.
Nearly 500 incidents last year were of the type that lend themselves to being "easily avoided" compared to more serious medical issues or accidents. Such incidents include getting lost, benighted or cragfast, succumbing to minor slips and trips, or for some reason “unable to continue” all contribute to this figure. So here's a quick guide to the basics.
How to avoid...Getting Lost
Know where you're going
Before setting out for your walk or ride, plan your route and check any walking notes you can find. These will highlight topographical features and sights that will help guide your step. Make notes on a map with anything you want to remember, so you have the information to hand when you need it. Also, be generous with your timing so you have realistic ideas as to your resting points. This will give you plenty of time to get back if you do get sidetracked.
Take your time
If you rush, you're more likely to get lost. And what are you rushing for anyway? Take your time and enjoy the outdoors!
Crack out a map
Intentionally getting lost is a noble pursuit, but if you don't plan to get lost, there's nothing wrong with breaking out a map and seeing where you need to go next. This does require map reading ability though... so make sure you learn how to read a map.
Some people look down with scorn upon GPS trackers and other walking gadgets. But they can be very useful to people walking routes they haven't done before. There's nothing wrong with getting a little help from time to time!
How to avoid...Becoming Cragfast
For the uninitiated, being crag-fast basically means getting stuck and it usually happens to climbers. It's what happens when you can neither ascend nor descend from a crag.
Plan your route
The best way to avoid this is to take your time and plan your routes carefully. Don't take chancy risks and try to think a couple of moves ahead. You can also get stuck in the dark. If you become benighted you can end up blundering into all sorts of hazards. So plan your timing carefully too.
Remember, anyone can get stuck
Getting stuck doesn't just happen to climbers. In fens, sand flats and other places where sudden rising water can cut you off, it can be easy to get stuck. In these places, make sure you do your research. Know when the tide will change and make sure you aren't around when it does.
How to avoid...Slips & Trips
Stumbles and tumbles accounted for well over 50% of all accidents resulting in MREW call outs last year. From twisted ankles to broken pelvises, walkers can get into real trouble if they fall over.
Wear the right shoes
This is a classic mistake new ramblers make. Make sure you're wearing the right footwear for the job. If you're walking over rough terrain, make sure you have lots of ankle support and decent grippy treads. If you're going climbing, wear climbing shoes. They are specifically designed to help you climb, so they're always worth the investment.
Watch your step!
The easiest way to not fall over is to avoid hazards in the first place. Always watch where you're walking, particularly in craggy areas where loose rock and sudden small crevices are common. Again, take your time and choose your route carefully.
Use the right path
Often, a park's designated trail will be well marked and much easier to traverse than just marching across the wilds. It's a safer route that is more likely to be regularly maintained by local groundskeepers and stewards.
It is not appropriate to demand or even expect incidents like this to disappear entirely; and nobody wants to see the wholesale discouragement of outdoor adventures. Nevertheless, it is this category of incidents where it is practical to suggest that improvements like these can be made in helping outdoor explorers to avoid getting into trouble through misadventure.