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Your questions answered on Phase 2 guidance

Friday 19th June 2020, 4:29pm

Phase 2 in exiting lockdown: questions and answers for hillwalkers and climbers

Key considerations in Phase 2

  • 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

Our full guidance on coronavirus and its effect on climbing and walking can be read here.


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 2 if you can access hills and crags in accordance with the travel guidance, we are suggesting that hill walking to Munro level, trad climbing, 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 2, you are permitted to drive locally (broadly within five miles) for outdoor leisure and exercise.

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 2 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. Many have expressed frustration that the 5-mile limit on travel for exercise remains, and we have asked the Scottish Government about this. They issued the following reply:

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We appreciate the frustration that mountaineers, walkers and many other participants of outdoor pursuits will be feeling at the moment.

“There are a number of reasons for the restrictions on travel to undertake leisure activities: in order to contain the virus we want to discourage unnecessary travel to stop the virus potentially spreading through the country, and in particular to remote communities. An increase in cars, or the amount of time that cars spend on the road, will inevitably lead to more traffic accidents, creating unnecessary strain on the emergency services.

“In phase three we expect that people will be able to drive beyond their local area for leisure and exercise purposes. In the meantime we call on the continued patience of everyone in supporting the national effort to fight this deadly pandemic – saving lives in the process.

 “And we would encourage everyone to continue to take daily exercise in their local area.”

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

Under Phase 2, 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 on camping here. (See end of page)


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

In Phase 2 you can take part in outdoor recreation alone or with members of your household and/or members of up to two other households at a time, providing that physical distancing of at least 2 metres is maintained between the different households at all times. 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 two other households 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 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 2 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.


What about professionals? Can I hire a guide or Mountain Leader?

The main limiting factor on all mountaineering activities is whether the mountains are within your reach while abiding by the guidance. If you have any questions about hiring the aid of a professional you should direct your questions to the professional concerned. The representing bodies for outdoor professionals (Association of Mountaineering Instructors, Mountain Training Association, British Mountain Guides and Mountain Training Scotland) are all 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. 

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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