Warning for climbers in Galloway hills

Concerns have been raised that satellite navigation devices making climbers and walkers less safe in the Galloway hills.

Mountain safety experts are warning hill-goers not to place too much reliance on GPS and other electronic navigation tools – especially in winter conditions.

In cold conditions battery life is significantly reduced and, unless batteries can be replaced or alternative navigation tools are available, people can be left with no means of finding out where they are.

And small buttons and touch-screen devices can be impossible to operate with gloves on – or to operate with fingers which are numbed with cold if gloves are taken off.

Heather Morning, safety adviser for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: “Navigation in the Scottish mountains can be challenging – particularly in winter when snow can bury important reference points like burns.

“There’s a temptation to think that splashing out lots of money on an electronic gadget is going to solve all your navigation and safety concerns. But recent trends with mountain rescue call-outs suggest the opposite.”

Heather advised a checklist of precautions for those using navigation devices: ensure that you practice with your GPS/smart phone mapping system and learn how to use it in a safe environment; remember that battery life will be very limited, particularly in the cold; all electronic devices stand the risk of malfunction; always also carry a map and compass and have the skills to use them.