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Your questions answered on Phase 1 guidance

Friday 29th May 2020, 3:02pm

Phase 1 in Exiting Lockdown: Questions and Answers for hillwalkers and climbers


Key considerations in Phase 1

  • Stay local: Follow the current public health guidance for Scotland to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Be prepared: Car parks, toilets and other facilities may remain closed.
  • Be safe: Plan ahead and stay well within your limits - whatever your activity - to avoid the need for rescue and emergency services.
  • Be considerate: Think about how your actions might impact on others and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times

Why is Mountaineering Scotland taking the lead on issuing guidance to the outdoors community?

As a responsible membership organisation, and in the face of a major health crisis, we are issuing guidance to our members to assist them in keeping them safe whilst returning to hillwalking and climbing activities and to protect emergency and health services. We also have a wider social responsibility as the nationally recognised representative body to provide guidance that all hillwalkers and climbers in Scotland can access. As an organisation it is not our role to tell our members what to do and we are asking our members, and the wider public, to consider the guidance and use their judgement and common sense, and to also be mindful of how your individual actions reflect on the whole outdoor community.

Can I go hillwalking and climbing again?

Yes. The advice from Scottish Government states that from the 29th May you can continue to participate in unrestricted outdoors exercise, while adhering to distancing measures, and you are now allowed to participate in non-contact outdoor activities in your local area (approx 5 miles - see below).

In Phase I if you can access hills and crags in accordance with the travel guidance, we are suggesting that hill walking to Munro level, bouldering and top roping as you would at a climbing wall would be acceptable activities during this phase.

Where can I go?

Under the public health guidance for Scotland for Phase 1, you are permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise, but are advised to stay within a short distance of your local community (broadly within 5 miles) and to travel on foot, wheel or cycle where possible. At Phase 2, people will be permitted to drive locally for leisure purposes and we will be working to establish how this will be defined.

It is important to remember that whilst travel restrictions still apply, car parks and public toilets will remain closed and this should be a consideration in planning your activities.

For more information see the public health advice on the Scottish Government website.

Why is there a limit on distance travelled for outdoor recreation?

The Scottish Government are taking a very cautious approach to exiting lockdown, and Phase 1 is considered an extension to the current lockdown to provide more opportunity for people to meet socially and access a wider number of activities for exercise. Be aware that the limit on how far we can travel applies to all exercise and outdoor recreation, not just hill walking and climbing. 

We understand that the continued restrictions on travel make it difficult for many regular climbers and walkers, especially those living in the Central Belt, to access any significant hills or climbing areas and we are awaiting more information about what this might look like at Phase 2. 

What about overnight stays in the hills? Huts/bothies, campsites, wild camping?

Under Phase 1, public health regulations and guidance require everyone to stay home as much as possible, except for the specified purposes, so staying overnight in a hut, bothy or tent would not be allowed. Subsequent phases may allow a return to wild camping, but opening huts and bothies will take longer because of issues with maintaining hygiene and with social distancing. Read the official guidance here.

Can I meet up with my friends to go walking or climbing?

In Phase 1 you can take part in outdoor recreation alone or with members of your household and/or members of 1 other household at a time, providing that physical distancing of at least 2 metres is maintained between the different households at all times. If people from 2 households are meeting, you should meet in small numbers no more than 8 people in total at a time, and you should not meet people from more than 1 other household each day. Further details here.

You should avoid sharing food, drink or equipment with other people and maintain hand and cough hygiene at all times.  Read more in our guidance for walkers and climbers.

What about scrambling and lead / multi pitch climbing?

We are discouraging members from participating in these activities during Phase 1 and, working with the Mountain Safety Group, have planned for these to be reintroduced at later phases in the exit from lockdown. At this early stage we are trying to avoid the risk of a leader fall, the implications of sharing gear, and ensuring physical distancing measures relating to the transmission of the virus can be managed. In the event of an accident we are also trying to avoid the need for mountain rescue volunteers to undertake technical rescues. 

What about outdoor access?

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides guidance for public and land managers. 

The key principles of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code are:

  • Respect the interests of others
  • Care for the environment
  • Take responsibility for your own actions         

The guidance has been recently updated following the announced move to Phase 1 and can be found here.

What if I have an accident and need help?

Mountain Rescue teams will respond to emergencies, although rescues may take longer to reach you and teams are likely to have fewer people on a call out. Accidents can happen, however, and you should call for help if you really need it. Be prepared to be self-reliant and pack warm clothes and an emergency shelter in case of a prolonged wait.

Will test and trace allow a quicker return to the hills?

Test and trace was launched alongside the move to Phase 1. Whilst it is an important step, being socially responsible as we undertake our activities during Phase 1 and continuing to adhere to physical distancing measure whilst maintaining good hand hygiene will continue to be key to ensuring  we minimise the risk of transmitting the virus. It is also essential to follow the guidance on self-isolation if you are experiencing symptoms and not to participate in outdoor activities

What about professionals? Do we have anything to say for MLs etc? What about people who want to hire an ML?

During Phase 1 it is very unlikely that professional outdoor instructors will be able to offer their services due to restrictions around social distancing and travel etc.

However, the representing bodies for outdoor professionals (Association of Mountaineering Instructors, Mountain Training Association, British Mountain Guides and Mountain Training Scotland) are setting out guidelines to enable their members to restart their services as soon as government guidelines enable them to do so.  Outdoor professionals will be very keen to restart their services as soon as restrictions allow in a safe and respectful manner in respect to other outdoor recreationalists, land management and local rural communities.  

An example of guidelines from the Mountain Training Association can be viewed here.

Mountaineering Scotland is a not for profit membership organisation and the voice of Scotland's hillwalkers, climbers, mountaineers and ski tourers. We could not continue our vital work for Scotland's mountains and mountaineers without the support of our members.

Membership of Mountaineering Scotland offers excellent value at less than 3 a month for adults, and includes public and civil liability insurance, a range of member discounts and offers, access to great value mountain skills courses, quarterly Scottish Mountaineer magazine and more! 

Find out more about our member benefits here 

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