The Sligo/ Leitrim Mountain Rescue team was involved in sixteen incidents during 2008, statistics for last year have revealed. The team is one of twelve operating in Ireland, ten in the south and two in the north. According to the Mountain Rescue Association of Ireland, 2008 was “consistently busy”, with summer the busier season and over half of all incidents occurring at weekends, Sunday being the busiest day.

As the IMRA released countrywide figures, it also issued some timely safety advice for those climbing mountains, warning that although they are physically easy to access and are not high by international standards, the mountains of Ireland in both summer and winter provide serious and challenging terrain. ”People underestimate the difficulties involved and frequently lack the range of skills necessary to meet the challenge,” said Gerry Christie, IMRA public relations officer. Specific mountaineering skills were needed to manage the risks involved and while some of these were technical, equally important were judgement and decision making, he added. Among the safety guidelines are the need for climbers to pay particular heed to the weather forecast and to choose routes that are appropriate to the prediction conditions and the competence of climbers and their party; the need to be well equipped with warm clothing, food, hot drinks and the right equipment, while the ability to navigate accurately and efficiently in low visibility in all terrain was the single most important skill a hill goes could possess as navigational error remained the single greatest contributory factor to Mountain Rescue callouts.

Climbers are also encouraged to allow lots of time and to start early, as it is better to be looking at spare time than looking for it. ”Don’t allow your ambition exceed your ability. Please don’t take any risks,” said Mr. Christie. He added that if things did go wrong, people should stay calm, think clearly and think logically. ”Knowledge is the most important thing carried by anyone in the mountains and it doesn’t weigh a thing,” noted.

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