Being male and on your phone are the biggest dangers on Scottish mountains, says an expert Mountain climbing

Being masculine, unable to look past your cell phone and unfamiliar with the avalanche forecast: these are critical risk factors on the mountains of Scotland, according to the country’s leading female climbing expert.

Heather Morning, who took over as head teacher at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s national outdoor training center earlier this month, is urging visitors to “think winter” this spring as Scottish police revealed on Friday that mountain rescues had risen 40% in last weeks, with climbers misreading treacherous conditions on the tops. Seven people died on the hills alone this month.

Morning, which is based in Aviemore, 50 miles northeast of Fort William, said: “In March, we get longer daylight hours, and down the gorge here it feels very much like summer. People aren’t turned on by the fact that they may still need an ice pick and clamps high. “

With snow continuing to fall in Cairngorms, the warmer days and frosty nights combine to make conditions even more dangerous, with melting water turning to hard ice.

“Inevitably, we see deaths of people stepping on old hard snow, taking off and crashing into rocks or cliffs. Loss of life is complex, but there are certainly some trends. Almost all deaths on the Scottish mountains are men. Men over 60- Demographics are getting worse. ”

In her previous role as a mountain safety advisor at Mountain climbing In Scotland, Morning analyzed data covering a seven-year period up to the beginning of 2019 and found that women accounted for just 10 of the 114 deaths.

She said: “You generalize about male and female attributes in terms of risk-taking and obviously it doesn’t reflect everyone, but from the many years I’ve spent training people, guys tend to overestimate their ability and tend to do things, and don’t think they needs formal skill training, while ladies tend to swing in the other direction. “

Women, in Morning’s experience, have much less confidence in their own abilities and are more willing to attend, for example, a sailing course, “which some people consider unimportant when it is the absolute cornerstone of safety in the mountains.” She estimates that about 25% of mountain rescue events are the result of the “basic navigational error of putting people in the wrong place.”

This male reluctance to learn about navigation overlaps with the assumption among many young people that everything they require is an application. “As a younger person, your whole life is oriented around your cell phone, so it seems very natural to take it into the mountain environment, while a map and compasses feel outdated,” she said.

It is an additional challenge to educate people who do not think that outdoor resources are important to them. “If we take the classic example of someone driving up and down the south to climb Ben Nevis – I suspect most of the people you meet on the main track go up and have never even heard of the avalanche forecast.”

Morning, who originally trained as a typist before being introduced to the Mountain Leader scheme while volunteering with a local youth club, believes that while women increasingly embrace outdoor adventure as much as men, that equality does not translate into those applying leadership qualifications.

She advised Bonnie Bootsthe Glasgow-based group that runs women-only hill sessions for women of ethnic backgrounds, and has additional plans for a training program to encourage more Bame women to the lead path.

Her decades on the mountains have taught her to never make assumptions about an individual’s climbing skills, and that extends to dogs. She remembers her initial surprise when a “little chihuahua” arrived with her owner to attend a sailing course she ran at the Ochills.

“Oh my god, it was hard as nails. The thing got dirty from the hill, having a ball and it did something like 18 Munros. So never judge a book by its cover, ”she said.

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