Preparation is key to staying safe on Mournes

Preparation is key to staying safe on Mournes

20 January 2021

A LOCAL politician who is an outdoor instructor has offered timely advice to people considering heading into the Mournes during the current coronavirus lockdown.

The advice from Slieve Croob councillor Andy McMurray — on what key equipment people should take with them — comes after a series of recent incidents in the mountains which resulted in the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team responding to five emergency calls in one day over the Christmas period.

Over recent days there have been shocking reports of people heading into the mountains destined for snow-covered peaks wearing nothing but trainers, tracksuit bottoms and light coats, with no gloves or hats.

Taking to social media, Cllr McMurray insisted that his Facebook comments on what equipment people should consider taking with them were not “preive, just his musings”.

In addition, he said his post was not designed to either encourage or discourage people into the hills, issuing a reminder that given the new lockdown restrictions, “personal and civic responsibility should now, more than ever, be taken into consideration before considering any excursion”.

Cllr McMurray says South Down’s hills, rivers and forests are a “wonderful environment” and that through various disciplines and sports, they create challenges that both physically and mentally maintain people.

“Socially, there is a good buzz too and it is one of the main reasons that as a Belfast native, I chose to live locally. I am also incredibly be lucky to make my living, somewhat stymied at present, by taking people outside,” he continued.

Cllr McMurray said the whole lockdown period has seen a huge uptake in individuals heading outdoors which, he suggested, is a positive thing for society. 

He said outdoor recreation sits separate from ‘traditional’ sporting recreation because it generally takes people to more inaccessible places which, for many, is the point and attraction over more traditional sports. 

“Our chosen field of play isn’t constrained by a defined set of whitewashed lines on a patch of grass,” he continued, referring to a photo of the equipment he took with him while walking in the hills last week.

Admitting that the image did not include everything that he probably could or should carry, Cllr McMurray said it also isn’t what he always carries when he heads into the mountains.

He said while carrying kit won’t prevent things going wrong, it might make people more comfortable until they are right again.

The equipment which Cllr McMurray took with him last week included walking poles, rucksack and whistle, dry bag/liner, lunch, map, compass, torch, flask with a hot drink, spare gloves and hat, waterproof jacket and trousers, first aid kit and survival bag.

The local politician said he was also wearing a hat, gloves, base-layer, long sleeved thermal, fleece gilet, soft shell/windproof jacket, warm trousers, gaiters and winter walking boots.

Cllr McMurray continued: “This is just general kit. There are other factors to take into consideration such as route choice and navigation. 

“Luckily there are loads of people out there who have the knowledge to show people what they need and if anyone is really stuck where to start, Mountaineering Ireland would be worth checking out. There are many who I have learned from and are much more experienced, qualified and knowledgeable than me.”

Cllr McMurray said the key message is to be as well equipped as possible when venturing into the hills.