BMC, SMC and Mountain Rescue: stay at home, stop climbing and hill-walking
- Monday 23rd March 2020
Following numerous reports of the wide-spread inundation of National Parks and open spaces over the weekend, the BMC, SMC and the Mountain Rescue services have advised all climbers and hill-walkers to stay in their home area and avoid unnecessary mountain activities and put all climbing and hill walking on hold. Climber also echoes this crucial advice so please stick to it.
The BMC’s press release referred to Boris Johnson’s Sunday briefing in which he said: “It is very important for people’s mental and physical wellbeing that they should be able to get out and exercise if they possibly can. Parks, open spaces are so absolutely crucial for our country and for our society, but when we do that we have to do it responsibly.” Johnson then warned the public that they need to follow social distancing guidelines, or the Government will be forced to restrict access to more open spaces.
The BMC therefore have issued the following advice to all climbers and hill-walkers: ‘climbing and hill walking are not activities requiring essential travel. Stay local, and put your climbing and hillwalking on hold.’
Dave Turnbull, BMC CEO, said: “We never thought we’d be telling our members not to go climbing or hill walking, but that’s our current advice. It’s time to put it on hold.”
Elfyn Jones, BMC access officer and member of Llanberis Mountain Rescue said: “There's been a lot of talk about justifying why we can still climb or hill-walk safely within our capabilities and that, somehow, we can do this without affecting anyone else or impacting spread of the virus. The simple fact is - we can't. Please stop.”
Jones added: “Stay in your home area. We all owe it to everyone else to do everything we can to help stop or at least delay the spread of this disaster. Please put climbing, mountaineering and hill walking on hold until it's safe to do so.”
Listen to Elfyn Jones here .
The BMC statement also referred to mountain rescue cover across the UK saying: ‘[it] will either be withdrawn totally or drastically reduced this week as health service resources are prioritised and popular mountain areas are closed down.’
Adding his weight to the agreement British Mountain Guide and anaesthetist Jon Morgan said: “Do everything in your power to minimise both risk and social contact. Be scrupulous about hand hygiene and spread the word. Your own personal actions may save the life of a relative or someone you know. I am writing this as an anaesthetist who will be keeping people alive with ventilators. All the signals are we will be overwhelmed like Italy. Please help out by taking this as seriously as possible.”
Andrew Denton of the Outdoor Industry Association added: “A nation in lockdown could lead to enhanced anxiety, depression, social unrest, mental and physical ill-health, and social poverty. In contrast, carefully managed local exercise, inside or outside, will provide welcome active release for individuals and families feeling trapped. Getting into the outdoors sensibly very close to our own homes now, will make it easier for all of us to sustain other official guidelines and preserve the health of the vulnerable in the longer term.”
Summarising the advice given, the BMC told climbers and hill walkers:
- Don't travel unless it’s essential
- Don’t go climbing or hill walking
- Stay local
- Keep a social distance of 2m
- Avoid all but essential contact with anyone
Finally, the BMC confirmed that their latest advice is backed up by: ‘a group of 35 leading national outdoor activity, tourism, nature, health and rescue organisations, that have come together to back the Prime Minister’s call for the public to behave responsibly while exercising outside. In a joint statement, the group has offered support to the government and advice to the nation on how to stay active safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.’
The situation is exactly the same in the north of the UK where the SMC and Scottish Mountain Rescue have issued a joint statement saying: ‘stay clear of the hills’ and then urging ‘people to abide by Government advice and avoid unnecessary travel – which includes journeys to the hills.’
Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams warned that they are working below normal capacity and have no adequate protective equipment for dealing with people with suspected COVID-19. Despite the warnings to act responsibly the past weekend saw a number of rescue call-outs.
The Glen Coe Mountain Rescue Team has issued a stark statement to tell hill-goers that only seriously injured people, or those unable to walk will be rescued – and even that will be carried out with a bare minimum of team members.
Team Leader Andy Nelson said bluntly: “My first priority is Glencoe Rescue team members’ safety. My second priority is to help stricken mountaineers.”
He said anyone uninjured, lost, or benighted will asked to wait until morning, and/or better visibility to extricate themselves. Even “walking wounded” will be asked to consider extricating themselves from the mountain.
Mr Nelson said: “This is contradictory to everything we believe in, but I must look after team members in order for them to help casualties who really need it.”
That message was backed up by Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, who said: “We do not have PPE within teams for COVID19 – quite rightly the NHS staff and others must be prioritised – and this is putting many team members in a genuine dilemma. They are all volunteers. Should they do what they always do and respond, putting loved ones at home at greater risk? Many team members will have people they live with who are classified as vulnerable, is it fair to take that risk? Also, many members of teams are self-employed and already facing hardship.
“Our NHS services in the mountain regions are already stretched; don’t add to their load. The mountains will be there next year and the year after, let’s make sure we all are."
Mountaineering Scotland, which speaks for mountaineers and mountaineering in Scotland, has already urged its members to take their exercise locally as long as the Government recommends that.
Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer, said: “It’s not just our own health we are risking, it’s the health of others, many of whom may be much more vulnerable.
“As responsible members of the outdoor community we should avoid travel and recreational mountain activities and consider our social responsibilities to ourselves, friends, families and those rural communities who are rightly concerned about the impact of visitors to their areas. It’s such a hard thing to say, to urge people NOT to go to the hills, but now really is the time to avoid unnecessary activities in the mountains.
“Remember, this is temporary, and we do ask that people put their own wishes aside for now and avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others.”