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Mountain rescue

In Scotland we are fortunate to have 27 volunteer mountain rescue teams (including cave rescue), with over 1000 volunteers, plus an additional three Police teams and one RAF team.
The teams offer a world class, voluntary search and rescue service that is available any hour, any day and any weather. It’s also free of charge. The national umbrella organisation for all these teams is Scottish Mountain Rescue

Mountain rescuers at an avalanche site on Buachaille Etive Mor

We are fortunate to have free support in the event of an emergency, but it is our responsibility not call teams out unnecessarily.

This means being committed to self-reliance from the outset. The mountain rescue service should never be viewed as a ‘free ticket off the hill’. Before calling 999 it should be very clear that you are unable to help yourself and that outside help is necessary. Unnecessary calls are costly for the teams and could divert resources away from a serious emergency.

For you, self-reliance means being able to cope with most eventualities that may befall you on the hill. For mountain rescue teams it means being called out less for trivial or unnecessary reasons. You owe it to yourself as well as your friends to be competent at what you are tackling and to cope with any misfortune to the best of your ability.

  • Learn mountaineering skills necessary to judge potential hazard; know what lies ahead through map reading, assessing changes in the weather and assessing avalanche risk
  • Judge how your companions are coping and know when the best decision is to turn back
  • Use local knowledge, guidebooks, reports and maps to glean as much information as possible about your intended route - including escape routes and river crossings, and areas of avalanche activity
  • Learn the skills of self-rescue: mountain First Aid, improvised carries, security on difficult or complicated ground, rope techniques and evacuation from crags
  • Carry the appropriate equipment and clothing that would help you survive the severest conditions – and know how to use it

If you require assistance on the hill call 999 or 112 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue.

Essential information to have at hand:

  • The location of the incident (ideally a six figure grid reference and a named feature)

  • The number of casualties

  • What is wrong with the casualties

  • Are the casualties deteriorating?

  • Details of the equipment in the group i.e. group shelter

  • Your contact telephone number and any other mobile numbers in the group

Mobile phone reception in the Highlands can often be intermittent or non-existent. If you are involved in an incident on the hill and need to call assistance but cannot make voice calls, there may be enough signal to send a text message. You can contact the 999 emergency services using a text from your mobile only if you have already registered with the emergency SMS text service. 

How to register:

Text the word 'register' to 999. You will get a reply, and should then follow the instructions you are sent. This will take about two minutes of your time and could save your life.

Mountaineering Scotland has worked together with Scottish Mountain Rescue to provide this simple advice for how manage in the event of an incident:

  • Stay calm. Take time to assess the situation and decide what to do.

  • Check that you, the casualty and group aren't in immediate danger. If you are, seek to make the situation safe. 

  • If anyone is injured, remember ABC – airway, breathing and circulation (look for signs of life or blood loss)

  • Treat any injuries (remember the first principle: ‘do no harm’)

  • Insulate the casualty from the ground, add extra clothing. Place any unconscious casualties in the recovery position.

  • Determine your exact position on the map and consider the options for:

    1. Descent to safety. What will the terrain be like? How far to reach safety? Are you sure you can carry the casualty? Will the casualty’s injuries be made worse by travelling?

    2. Finding shelter. Don’t use up valuable time and energy unless you are sure about finding shelter.

    3. Staying put. Will your situation be resolved if you stay where you are?

    4. Seeking help. Remember that even when a rescue team has been alerted, help might not arrive for several hours.

  • Try to conserve mobile battery life by having all the details to hand before phoning for help. A list of the details needed is shown above.

  • If there is no mobile coverage at your location, consider whether it might be worth moving to another location to phone from.

  • Check who else in your party has a mobile phone (and coverage) and evaluate the amount of battery life available in the event of additional calls being necessary.

If all other forms of communication fail, the internationally recognised emergency signals are six blasts on the whistle or six torch flashes repeated every minute.

Scottish Mountain Rescue

Scottish Mountain Rescue

Glenmore Lodge - the national outdoor training centre

Glenmore Lodge

Mountain Training Scotland

Mountain Training

Snowsports Scotland

Snowsport Scotland

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland

Association of Mountaineering Instructors