Mountaineering Scotland press release, 23rd March 2020:
Walkers and climbers have been asked to avoid unnecessary mountain activities and to consider their social responsibilities.
Mountaineering Scotland and Scottish Mountain Rescue have joined forces to urge people to abide by Government advice and avoid unnecessary travel – which includes journeys to the hills.
Mountain Rescue Teams have already warned that they are working below normal capacity and have no adequate protective equipment for dealing with people with suspected COVID-19. Yet 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.