It was early. It was cold. A stiff breeze riffled the surface of the lake. It was doing its damndest to drizzle. And across that chilly lake from Coniston Boating Centre, the clouds clung on in places, obstinately obscuring the view, drifted here and there in others, teasing us with what lay beyond. Yet a hint of sunshine had glimmered momentarily on my drive down through the Lakes. Maybe, just maybe, by late afternoon it might get warmer. On the other hand…

Just your average Lake District Bank Holiday weekend then. In fact – some might say – just your average day in the mountains when – Beasts from the East and freakishly warm Easter breaks aside – you never quite know what you’ll get. What better day to begin rolling out an outdoor safety campaign?

It was Friday 3 May and this was the official launch of #AdventureSmartUK in the Lakes. The campaign which started with #AdventureSmartWales last year (see a previous blog), has been rebranded, the ultimate aim to roll out consistent safety messages across the whole of the UK. Go to AdventureSmartUK now and you’ll see two destinations listed: ‘Lake District Cumbria’ and ‘Wales’.

The message is simple. Enjoy your adventures in the outdoors, but before you set out, ask yourself three questions:

  • Do I have the right gear?
  • Do I know what the weather will be like?
  • Am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day ahead?

Wherever you’re headed, whatever adventure it is you’re planning, the same three questions apply. Answered yes to all three? Then off you go. Get out that door and have some fun!

Not so sure? Then there’s plenty of advice on the AdventureSmartUK website about what you need to carry with you and how to stay safe.

Map reading navigation

We’d always recommend learning to navigate with paper map and compass © Graham Uney

Do I have the right gear?

If you’re unsure about what constitutes ‘the right gear’, AdventureSmartUK gives a handy breakdown of what’s what for five activities – Stand Up Paddleboarding, Mountain Biking, Hill Walking, Canoeing and Boating – so when you head out to your local outdoor shop or browse online you’ll know what to look for.

Each list is comprehensive, roughly split into clothing, footwear and rucksack essentials. It may seem daunting to the beginner but we guarantee every single item listed will make your good day better and help mitigate should you get into difficulties.

Essential clothing such as waterproofs, hat and gloves (and spares) and comfortable, well-fitting footwear will protect you from the elements and keep you warm (or free from sunstroke), and give you the best chance of tackling the terrain in hand. Add in sunscreen and sunglasses, any regular medication and blister relief too.

A map and compass will keep you ‘on track’, the torch and/or head torch will light your way should darkness overtake your pace, and your mobile phone, torch and whistle will provide the means to attract attention or call for rescue. And don’t forget waterproof notepad and pen and a note of any emergency contact details. Just in case.

Food and drink will keep your energy levels up, keep you warm and your body hydrated, and what better excuse than a snack break to pause a while and admire the view?

Flapjack, apple and a hot brew – is there any better way to take in the view? © Belinda Hastie

What’s the weather doing?

Scroll to the foot of the home page and you’ll find information about the time of sunset for that day and links to key areas. Under Lake District Cumbria, there’s detailed weather links for Scafell Pike, South Lakes, the Cumbria coast and East Cumbria. Under Wales, you’ll find Snowdon summit, Holyhead, Pen y Fan and St David’s. And there’s tide tables too for the popular coastal areas.

Wherever you’re headed, it pays to invest in a reliable waterproof, and always have it tucked in the rucksack, even if the sun is shining. Because if you ever had the idea it rains a lot in the Lakes – or indeed Wales – you’d not be far wrong. And weather forecasts can change rapidly too so keep watching.

Snow on Helvellyn May 2019

Always be prepared for the weather! 10 May 2019: While the sun was shining elsewhere in the Lakes, snow was falling on Helvellyn © Graham Uney

Am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day?

Whatever the adventure, it pays to be honest with yourself. To some degree, we’re all fitter, faster, braver and more capable in our heads. If we love the outdoors, chances are we love to test ourselves too. Just a little bit. Us against the elements.

Nothing wrong with a challenge but doing things the AdventureSmart way means knowing where you want to end up, and how to navigate your way there. It means recognising your limits, and the capabilities of others in the group, and tailoring your day accordingly. And if you’re planning something new or heading for a particularly challenging route, it might mean hiring a guide or getting some training first.

Rock climbing Pillar Rock

Improving the rock skills on Pillar Rock under the watchful eye of an instructor © Graham Uney

Speaking of improving your skills…

…how about treating yourself to something from our bookshop? We’ve expanded the range to include a few books which we think every hillgoer should have in their collection.

For navigation tips, we’ve got the Ultimate Navigation Manual by Lyle Brotherton or Navigation by Pete Hawkins, a pocket guide complete with a navigational aid card. And for clues about natural navigation, weather forecasting, tracking and walking in the countryside or the city, there’s the Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Signs and Clues by Tristan Gooley.

If you’re looking to develop your first aid skills, Outdoor First Aid by Katherine Wills tells you how you can do this in the wild and wonderful outdoors.

And confirmed climbers might want to take a look at Andy Kirkpatrick’s 1001 Climbing Tips.

Buy from our bookshop and you’ll also be donating to mountain rescue. We hold our hands up: we sell all our books at the recommended cover price – and we’ll charge you postage too – but rest assured the difference you pay goes towards supporting all mountain rescue teams across England and Wales. So thank you.

How to get help when you need it

Okay, so you’ve answered yes to all three #AdventureSmart questions, you’ve read the books, got the training, watched the weather and still something happens. You or one of your party gets into difficulties. Now what?

No mobile signal? Get out the torch and whistle, then: Six short torch flashes in short succession, repeated at one minute intervals or blow your whistle in a similar manner.

Signal okay? Call 999, ask for ‘Police’ then ‘Mountain Rescue’ then be ready with the following (cue notepad and pen):

  • Your location (grid reference if possible)
  • Name, gender and age of casualty
  • Nature of injuries or emergency
  • Number of people in the party
  • Your mobile phone number.

Then stay where you are until contacted by the mountain rescue team.

If you’ve enabled ‘Location settings’ before setting off and have internet access, the rescue team can also send you a SARLOC or PhoneFind message. Clicking on that link will identify your location and assist the team in reaching you faster. To find out more about SARLOC and PhoneFind, check out our previous article here.

Of course, we hope it never comes to that. Be #AdventureSmart, stay safe and come back another day for more. And don’t forget the flapjack!

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