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Lessons learned in the mountains

Go to the hills long enough and, with luck, you'll build up your own store of mishaps and near misses - they're called experience, and the trick is to learn from them.

Any sort of close shave should be a learning opportunity for you, with a clear look back on what happened allowing you to pick out the things you did wrong, or could have done better, the things you should have done but didn't and the things you did which you shouldn't have. The idea isn't to beat yourself up about how stupid you were, but to learn from your mistakes so you don't repeat them.

In this page we've included tales of rescues and near misses, so you can learn from others' mistakes and hopefully avoid making them yourself.

If you have any cautionary tales of your own, where you have learned valuable lessons, you can send them to neil@mountaineering.scot for consideration. It may be summer or winter, climbing or walking. We'll use the best on this page (although, to save anyone's blushes, we won't use names).

Now read on...

A straightforward ascent of one of the relatively benign Glenshee hills... until a short-cut beckoned on the way back down

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Carn Mor Dearg Arete under winter conditions

A group of walkers discover that climbing hills under winter conditions is harder and takes so much longer - especially when the aim is to do Ben Nevis via Carn Mor Dearg and the arete.

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Carn Mor Dearg Arete under winter conditions

Heather Morning tells a tale of a simple glen walk out to a bothy for an overnight stay. What could possibly go wrong?

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Facing an uncrossable river in flood

The uncrossable river. Time for a change of plan

It was only for a short stretch of the descent, and all had gone well on the way up, so surely it would be okay without stopping to put the spikes on...

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ice-axe braking on a snow slope

It was a late start in November, and there was snow on the tops - but it would be fine, he said, would only take four hours and we could walk off in the dark...

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Traversing the Aonach Eagach


It was a lovely day but still almost ended badly, with a chain of events that started the day before - or even earlier.

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On the Braeriach plateau

I checked the forecast, I had all the gear and I took the bearing - so why was I now heading directly for a cornice over a massive drop?

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Summit of Ben Macdui in white-out conditions

Benighted on Beinn Sgulaird, the descent becomes too dangerous as the ground steepens. And the wind and rain don't make life any easier...

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Helicopter rescue

Photo by Heather Morning.

In winter darkness falls early, but uncertainty about the position meant a descent route was a problem. It was time to call 999.

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Stob Coire Easain in winter. Photo by Alan Rowan

Stob Coire Easain. Photo by Alan Rowan.