Mountain Safety

Safety is our top priority at all times, whether we’re climbing, scrambling, hiking or just bimbling along to the shop.

Click here to download our short and snappy guide to Mountain Safety or read on below…




St. Bartholomew’s and the Royal London Alpine Club (BLAC) – Short Guide to Mountain Safety

BLAC aims to enable students at Barts and the London to experience and enjoy the mountains of the UK and abroad. Although they are beautiful and provide great challenges, mountainous areas can also be dangerous places. The aim of this document is provide you with a guide to staying safe in the mountains.

Before you take part in any activity you must read the British Mountaineering Council’s (BMC) Participation Statement and understand that you are responsible for your own safety;

“The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.”


Weather in mountainous areas can change rapidly without warning, therefore it is important to be wearing appropriate clothing when on the mountain.

  •       Jeans are UNACCEPTABLE, the ideal trousers are lightweight synthetic trousers.
  •       Layers are the best way to keep warm and provide flexibility. Synthetic materials or wool are ideal, cotton and jeans take a long time to dry.
  •       Waterproofs (jacket and trousers) are essential, as are warm hat, gloves & scarf.
  •       Footwear on trips should ideally be walking boots. Trainers may be suitable for some activities, but should have a good grip. If you are not sure please check with the Gear & Safety Officer (see the website for details) or another experienced member

 before the trip.


BLAC is a club for students led by students. As such no members hold any specific qualifications and all activities are undertaken in the understanding of sharing accumulated knowledge. Therefore each person must take responsibility for themselves, though more experienced club members are always available to offer advice if needed.

Key Points

Whenever you go out mountaineering you should;

  •       Always carry a headtorch (the club can provide these)
  •       Always carry spare food
  •       Carry a First Aid Kit
  •       Carry a survival bag (again the club can provide these)
  •       Each group should take a map and compass (and be able to use them!)
  •       A mobile phone in each group is also useful
  •       Before leaving the hut, each person should sign an appropriate activity sheet so the chairperson is aware of the whereabouts of everyone on a trip.

Consider the challenges of your route beforehand and what you would do if things went wrong. BLAC supports ambitious mountaineering but the safety of all members must always be at the front of your mind. Know your own abilities and limitations and ensure you are also aware of those of the rest of your group.


The following is provided as guidance and is in no way exhaustive or definitive. It has been composed by the Chair and Safety Officers from a variety of sources including the British Mountaineering Council, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA).

Every situation requires a unique and considered approach to resolving it safely. These guidelines are here to help you think through any situation you may find yourself in.

Occasionally accidents happen suddenly while others slowly develop and it is essential everyone is aware of what to do in any situation

  •       Firstly, STAY CALM.
  •       Take time to assess the situation and take any actions needed to ensure your own safety and the safety of the others in the group
  •       If anyone is injured    

1.     Make sure it is safe to approach

2.     If not make it safe if you can, if you can’t then do not approach them – your own safety is paramount for your sake and theirs

3.     If it is safe to approach then do so the casualty

  •       If needed provide first aid or basic life support.

(See UK Resus Council for guidelines – and

for BLS courses.)

  •       Determine your exact position on the map and consider options:
    1. Descent to safety. What will the terrain be like? How far to reach safety? Are you sure you can carry the casualty? Will the casualty’s injuries be made worse by traveling?
    2. Finding shelter. Don’t use up valuable time and energy unless you are sure about finding shelter. Can you call for help when in your shelter?
    3. Staying put. Will your situation be resolved if you stay where you are?
    4. Seeking help (remember that even when a rescue team has been alerted, help might not arrive for several hours).

You may want to do several of the above or combine them. Continually reassess if the situation changes, e.g. the weather gets worse or the casualty deteriorates

Seeking help

If you have a mobile phone:

  •       Try to conserve battery life by having all the details to hand before phoning.
  •       If there is no mobile coverage at your location consider whether it might be worth moving to another location to phone from.
  •       Check who else in your party has a mobile phone (and coverage) and evaluate the amount of battery life available in the event of        additional calls being necessary.
  •       Phone 999 and ask for: POLICE and then MOUNTAIN RESCUE.
  •       Provide them with as much information as possible including:

1.     Location of the incident (grid reference, map sheet number, name of mountain area and description of the terrain).

2.     Any injuries and names of casualties

3.     Number and names of people in the party and their condition

  •       Be ready to provide the following additional information:

1.     Telephone number of the phone you are using and any other phones in the group.

2.     The nature of the incident – what happened?

3.     Time of the incident.

4.     Weather conditions including wind speed and visibility at the accident site.

5.     Equipment which is at the accident site (warm clothing, group shelter etc.).

6.     Any distinguishing feature / marker / colour at the accident site. – you could use a survival bag.

7.     Location of where you are phoning from – if different from accident site.

If you do not have a mobile phone/reception

  •       Remember to take all the details shown above. Write them down if possible.
  •       Note the location of the casualty on the map and a clear route to your destination.
  •       If searching for reception, high peaks and mountain faces in sight of villages/towns are better but beware of becoming another casualty especially in bad weather.
  •       If possible, leave at least one person with the casualty. Make sure they are as comfortable as possible. Leave those staying spare rations, put them in a survival bag and leave them a head torch.
  •       If you are a group of two it might be necessary for you to leave the casualty to summon help. If this is the case ensure they are as stable, warm and provisioned as you can. Inform them of your plan, the details of your route and estimated time before you return.
  •       If possible, send two or more people for help whilst  1 or more remain with the casualty.
  •       Make the casualty’s location easily seen by search parties.

Distress signals

Every group should carry a whistle with them on BLAC activities for signalling

International Alpine Distress signal in UK, Alps and US is:

6 signals in 1 minute

Pause for 1 minute

6 signals for 1 minute


Answering of a distress signal is

3 signals in 1 minute

Pause for 1 minute

3 signals in 1 minute



The signals may be torch flashes, waving of bright/big items or both arms, shouts, whistle blows, mirror flashes etc.

3 signals in 1 minute has also been used in the past but 6 signals is now the international standard and is less likely to be missed or confused.

Remember, this guide is not here to scare you! We want you to have fun and be safe on the mountains and if you have any questions, fears or worries please talk to anyone on the Committee or other experienced members.

Useful resources



The BMC                          




©Created by The BLAC Committee January 2009


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