Lights Out

boulderers at Burbage

Headtorches were necessary at Stanage at 6.45pm today (13th October). I’m always intrigued by the a) the number of people that just don’t go outdoors in the dark (what do they do ‘til Easter ?), and b) the number of people that do go outside in the dark (or go outside in the light and are still there when it gets dark) without a torch.

Although Mountain Rescue Teams seldom ever criticise anyone that they rescue, the recent ‘traditional’ spate of call-outs (by which i mean this part of the year always has rapidly decreasing daylight hours and poor weather and a rise in call-outs) has led Wasdale MRT to ‘observe’, after 12 incidents in 9 days, of which 9 were searches, that:

“It is also worth noting that the rescues involving the nine searches were all truly avoidable if properly planned.”

Planning, from their perspective, involves a hillgoer asking and answering themselves 3 questions:

  • Do I have the right gear?
  • Do I know what the weather will be like?
  • Am I confident that I have the knowledge and skills for the day?

Perhaps the ‘obvious’ difference from late September onwards is the decreasing hours of daylight. All of the Mountaineering Councils trot out the same warnings at the same time every year. And every year the rescue services are called out to people who could oftentimes easily have got off the mountain perfectly safely but for the fact that they couldn’t see in the dark because they didn’t carry a torch.

night turned in to day by headtorches

I’ve recommended this good, affordable torch from Alpkit to a few people lately. A great feature of it is you can run it until the in-built battery fades and then flick on the 3 x AAA battery pack. Carrying a further 3 spare charged AAA’s would give you something in the region of 300 lumen / 100m lighting for the best part of 15 hours.

If you know you need to see the light !! but have no idea what to shop for then this guide from Chris Townsend explains it all for the layperson.

Please don’t be one of those types that sits at home on an evening for the next 5 months. Buy a headtorch, work on your skills progressively, ask yourself the 3 ‘Wasdale Questions’ and get out and enjoy the night. Go safely …

Torches on, and an equipment and map check as dusk turns to dark on the Winter International Mountain Leader course in the French Alps (Jan 2020)

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day – Vincent Van Gogh

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