Mountain rescue teams across Scotland are set for their busiest year on record.
With more people making use of the great outdoors following lockdown, there has been a sharp increase in call outs.
Due to coronavirus, teams need to go out in smaller groups and they’re urging walkers, whether novices or veterans, to be well prepared if heading for the hills.
Sergeant Peter Lorrain-Smith, Police Scotland’s mountain rescue co-ordinator, said: “We have to be cognizant of the fact we can’t go down as a team, if we all get Covid, we have to self isolate, there’s no-one to take our job, so we maybe have a more proportionate response, we are maybe going out in smaller groups and it’s maybe taking us longer to actually achieve a rescue that it would have a year ago because we can’t throw so many resources at it.”
In 2020, Police Scotland has recorded a 20% increase in call-outs across the Highlands, north-east and Tayside regions in comparison to any other year.
In Tayside the team were deployed on 64 occasions since January while in the north east, teams were called out nearly 50 times and in the Highlands more than 210.
Sergeant Lorrain-Smith said: “The north of Scotland is lucky to have some of the most beautiful hills and mountains in the country, and over the past few months we have experienced a significant increase in the number of people heading outdoors to enjoy themselves.
“By all means I do not want to put anyone off appreciating our great outdoors, however I must highlight just how crucial it is that you are prepared.
“Plan the route you are going to walk and consider whether it is safe to climb and if you have the ability to complete it safely.
‘Also take sensible precautions and ensure you have suitable equipment, clothing and supplies.
“Unfortunately we continue to come across examples of people not being prepared for the walks or climbs they have embarked on, including people without maps, torches or basic survival gear, nor the skills and knowledge to use them.
“Many people have told us this is the first time they have ever hill-walked or climbed, and didn’t appreciate just how quickly conditions can turn.
“Our message remains simple – come to the hills and mountains and enjoy them, but be prepared for all eventualities and don’t go beyond your ability; preparation is the price of admission.
“Scottish mountains are by their very nature extremely unpredictable, therefore it is important that people take as many precautions as possible and plan ahead.”