On Sunday morning, listening to Open Country, a weekly radio programme mainly for townies, the interviews were with the Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team. They had just completed their 148th ‘job’. Apparently, in North Wales Mountain Rescue, teams are called out two or three times more often.
As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, North Wales Police, the Coast Guard and several Mountain Rescue teams are looking for four teenagers who have been missing since Sunday morning when they were last seen in a Ford Fiesta, and since then, their mobile phones have not been answered. It is now thought that they have gone camping in Snowdonia in atrocious weather conditions. Eryri National Park, also known as Snowdonia, is Wales’s largest national park, with numerous trails, lakes and peaks.
As one of the Mountain Rescue team said in the programme on Sunday, National Parks are seen by many as parks, “safe”. They are not seen as dangerous environments with limited safe pathways, loose scree and boulders, rapidly deteriorating weather and precipitous drops. People go ill-equipped for changes in the weather, without food and water, a compass and a torch each. In the autumn, when the clocks fall back an hour, and it gets dark earlier, Mountain Rescue teams are often called to bring down visitors who are trapped by no more than darkness on the fell or mountain. One year, there were eight call-outs in a couple of hours as darkness engulfed the fells; the people involved were so ill-prepared that they had not carried torches or remembered that as the clock fell back, darkness would come an hour earlier.
A group of Mountain Rescue groups in the UK have, with others involved in adventure travel, come together to produce Adventure Smart, which asks three questions that those venturing into the parks should ask themselves before they set off.
- Am I confident I have the knowledge & skills for the day?
- Do I know what the weather will be like?
- Do I have the right gear?
“If you score 3/3 on these questions, oﬀ you go, have a fantastic day.” If not, they suggest that people read on and take the advice. Adventure, after all, has no guaranteed outcome.
Many of those venturing into the parks do so without a map, having relied on their mobile phone “sat nav” to navigate to the park. The trails closer to the car park are well-used and often eroded; they are easy to follow, but as you get further and higher, it is easy to follow a path which peters out and enters what Mountain Rescuers call the “bad land”, where people get lost, fall and injure themselves.`
Mountain Rescue in the UK is delivered by unpaid volunteers, and their kit and operating expenses covered by donations. The rescuers on interviewed last Sunday on the radio put much of the increase in callouts to people in distress down to Instagram Tourism. The photos reveal stunning scenery and make access look easier than it is.
New Zealand is countering travelling under the social influence
On Instagram, there are over 50 million pictures tagged #tourism. Over 23 million images are #newzealand.
Two years ago, New Zealand launched a “Travelling Under the Social Influence” videos of the Social Observation Squad (S.O.S) patrolling some of New Zealand’s top tourist spots on a mission to stop people from taking photos under the social influence. It has been watched close to 700,000 times.