Many years ago I spoke to Guy Newbold, the then secretary of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team, about his day-to-day activities concerning the work of the MRT. At the time due to Guy's comments, it stuck in my mind about the suggested use of a route card when venturing on a walk. I can guarantee that as many as 95% of people venturing onto the fells, leave no formal information about their day's intentions which is fine, until of course something goes wrong. Back in 2003, with a little advice from Guy, I produced a route card for my own use and which I subsequently offered to others via the Online Fellwalking Club. Now, as a result of launching the 'Tubular Fells' website I offer it freely to you, so you can remain safe even if the worst, comes to the worst.
For people who attend navigation courses, such as those surrounding the National Navigation Award Scheme, creating a route card is a prerequisite to completing the course and for those of you who have completed such courses, the route cards produced includes bearings, distances and other very precise route information. Many walkers out for a simple day walk will see such preparations as either very difficult, rather a chore or simply can't be bothered. This is where a simpler route card can be utilised to leave the basic details of a day's foray into the fells. Many of us have probably been hillwalking on countless occasions without mishap, but every now and again things do go wrong, even for the most experienced. It is in such situations that a route card comes into play. As other MRT members have told me since, no one minds coming to the assistance of someone well prepared and who has done all they can to assist their would be rescuers. It is at such times that a simple route card assists greatly and in many circumstances can lead to many saved hours of searching and of course inconvenience to those volunteer rescuers in the form of the Mountain Rescue Teams.
To be honest, I will reiterate that point. The Mountain Rescue Teams of the UK are mostly voluntary, unpaid enthusiasts with a love for the area where they operate and with a basic respect and care for their fellow walkers and mountaineers. Basically, I think that any of us venturing onto the hills, owe it to our potential rescuers to utilise one thing they advise us to use.
How many of us would venture across a snow slope without crampons or ice axe, go out walking without our boots, or on a very cold and windy day, walk away from our car without a hat and gloves? I wouldn't want to lecture anyone, but it's probably about time that we all saw a route card as a piece of kit, with just as much importance as a pair of gloves and potentially with the power to save our life.
There are many other route card ideas out there and for those with NNAS qualifications this article is probably akin to teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, but I urge everyone to take a look at this free downloadable resource and start using it or even design your own (we can add them here if you would like to share them). After my discussions all those years ago, I now never fail to leave a route card behind showing my day's intentions (even more important, as I often walk on the fells alone) and with it laminated and partly filled in already it doesn't take me long and is even reusable. Even today I sometimes think that I won't bother, but I still owe it to the family or friends I leave back at home so as to keep them informed of where I am going and as already stated, to act as assistance to those brave men and women of the MRT. It isn't a huge task and I really think I owe them that. Of course, if you are leading a group a route card is the first essential.
So what are you waiting for, click on the following button to start downloading a pdf format route card and fill it out for your next walk. Please tell your hillwalking friends and colleagues about it. You never know, it might one day save your life: