Wednesday, April 4

Death Walks Behind You?

Snippets from a BBC news item this morning 'Lakeland Walking Deaths Highest for 17 years'

"The number of people fatally injured while walking in the Lakes has reached a 17-year high, a new report reveals" (Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association) ......There has been growing problem with people taking the easy option when they feel that they are lost..... Rather than trying to use a map and compass to find their location....... they're using mobile phones to call for help.

Sadly the self reliance and basic skills required to sort out a problem on the hills seems to be lacking in more and more outdoor adventurers these days.

I'm part way through May's issue of Trail, and for the inexperienced it can read like a treasure chest of oh so easily gained thrills and experience (Let's ignore the 'advertising article/sponsored by' tags on far too many articles. Where on earth did this sort of low level marketing come from?)

Most of the article photos are taken in conditions of good visibility, which has to be the case otherwise what's the point of the picture? But I'm becoming concerned that the 'leisurisation' of the hills, the over simplification of the terrain and weather will be increasingly at the cost of people's lives, and increased risks to the rescue services.

And how much does the phrasing used in major articles ('The Mission'; 'Fitness Academy') lead to overconfidence, or more an inappropriate frame of mind and attitude that is required to be on some of the fells?

I'm not just having a pop at Trail Magazine here. It's just happens to be the one that is freshest in my mind at present. And there are of course the usual admonishments about safety. But it's the glossy stuff that draws the unwary eye in.

The timing of the report ties in with the pre Easter holiday exodus, so hopefully the message might sink home in good time.

Whilst I'm on the subject of the outdoor media, one of the criticisms I have with the recent Wainwright Walks series on BBC 4 TV was the inference that wayfinding on the hills is done just by reference to one of AW's route guides. I can't remember one appearance in four programmes of a map or compass.

A great series, visually superb, and much to applaud, but its the little things that bring something like this tumbling down.

On a similar theme, last weekend was the first sunny/warm Sunday of 2007.

On Monday, of the three BBC County news sites I check, two listed multiple motorcycle deaths/serious injury.

As a biker of 30+ years the reason appears pretty self evident. The first outing since probably late last summer, on too powerful machinery, mixing in amongst the Sunday day tripper traffic. And it's the older people involved, rather than the kids on 'peds.

I used to give myself six months to get used to a new bike's handling, performance and braking before I would count myself mostly in-tune with its capabilities. And that was daily usage in all weathers. Only then could I really let rip when circumstances allowed.

At times I've ridden up to eight different motorcycles in one day at shop ride-outs. But I'd control the bike rather than the other way around. Not try to hammer them into the ground.

It seems some people will continue to learn the hard way, and that it is only a matter of time before legislation to 'protect' the Born-Again Motorcyclist (they're not bikers!) starts to be rolled out to 'prevent this death toll on our roads' (source - The sun Sept 2007?)

Oh and there's no prize for identifying the song title that heads this post.

Be careful out there folks. Your life is not a practice run.

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