Winter walking in the Lake District? Make sure you know what you're doing, warns top mountaineer

The Westmorland Gazette: Alan Hinkes with Everest in the background Alan Hinkes with Everest in the background

ONE of Britain’s most experienced high-altitude mountaineers has appealed for Lake District hikers to be better prepared on winter treks - to help relieve pressure on local mountain rescue volunteers.

Professional climber Alan Hinkes, who has climbed in the Alps and Himalayas, is writing a book about being the first Briton to have climbed all 14 of the world’s mountains over 8,000 metres in temperatures as cold as minus 40C.

So far in 2013, half of all the 14 incidents attended by Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team - Britain’s busiest - have involved slips on frozen ground or snowy conditions.

On Sunday, Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, went to three incidents in a day with a father and son needing to be airlifted to hospital by RAF helicopter, and another walker dislocating his shoulder and fracturing his ankle after falling near Red Tarn, Helvellyn.

Some incidents have involved experienced walkers but also those without the proper kit - needing help from some of the county’s 12 dedicated mountain rescue teams.

Mr Hinkes, 58, who lives near Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales, climbs in the Lake District almost ever week. He says he too has been caught out having previously broken his ankle and being avalanched.

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He said: “I think the hills should be for everyone and it’s great people get out walking. I always say I don’t climb to die, I climb to live, and I’m sure it’s the same for everyone else. The problem is people think how lovely and spring-like it is in the valley and don’t realise Helvellyn is icy and dangerous and that it’s sub-zero on the tops.

“I don’t mean to sound like a pompous mountaineer but I’ve been up Helvellyn on Striding Edge and there’s people that don’t have crampons and an ice axe when it’s snowy.

“Even some people that have the equipment don’t always know how to use it properly. There is no substitution for serving your apprenticeship, gaining your knowledge and not going at it all too fast.”

Mr Hinkes said he learned mountain craft and outdoors leadership and often consulted books. He suggested those wanting to prepare properly should try specialist centres or independent guides who can offer courses or tuition. He also said there are climbing and walking clubs people can join to get experience.

But he added: “You’ll never make the hills totally safe. Part of their attraction is they are dangerous. You have to accept accidents are going to happen and I don’t agree that the hills should be closed - that’s draconian and unpoliceable.”

Official mountaineering advice suggests that the minimum list of items walkers should be taking onto the fells includes 12 items - 14 if you include ice axes and crampons which are suggested for winter walking.

The list includes a map, compass, whistle, torch with spare batteries and bulb, waterproofs (incl trousers), survival bag, reliable watch, spare warm top, gloves, hat, food and water (enough for the day plus extra for emergencies) and first aid kit.

But other items suggested include a sleeping bag, emergency shelter, walking rope, walking pole, rucksack liner, gaiters, watch, sun cream and hat, binoculars, camera and penknife.

To download a copy of a special leaflet about How To Stay Safe and Enjoy The Fells, go to http://www.lamrt.org.uk/safety

 

Comments (1)

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9:47am Wed 27 Feb 13

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

Excellent article about a man I hadn't heard of before. How about more articles with Mr Hinkes explaining the use of safety equipment. For example, I've never seen anyone using crampons or an ice-axe. If I bought them for myself, I'd need rescuing due to accidental self-damage from my own gear. If not Mr Hinkes, perhaps the mountain rescue people could help our understanding with advice linked to the time of year and prevalent weather.
Excellent article about a man I hadn't heard of before. How about more articles with Mr Hinkes explaining the use of safety equipment. For example, I've never seen anyone using crampons or an ice-axe. If I bought them for myself, I'd need rescuing due to accidental self-damage from my own gear. If not Mr Hinkes, perhaps the mountain rescue people could help our understanding with advice linked to the time of year and prevalent weather. Milkbutnosugarplease
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