Safety on the Fells, Lakes and Coast

Safety on the Lake District & Cumbrian Fells, Lakes and Coast

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The Lakes and Cumbria is one of the very best regions in the world to experience outdoor adventure safely, and all abilities, ages and income brackets can enjoy the adventure.


If you are planning an adventurous break in the Lakes and Cumbria please read the notes below and follow the links to some excellent free advice. Remember – our wonderful, amazing, unpaid, local rescue teams are volunteers and would always rather rescue a person in trouble than a retrieve a dead one the next day so they are on call for you. BUT by taking a few minutes to read this advice you might well save yourself a lot of trouble as well as them!


If in any doubt ask a guide or qualified instructor for advice – an extensive range of well known guides and instructors can be found in the ‘Providers’ section.

On The Fells

British mountains can be killers if proper care is not taken. The following notes are adapted from those of the Mountain Rescue Council & cover sensible precautions if you want to minimise the risk of getting hurt or lost.


Aim to be self reliant, and so avoid inconveniencing or endangering others. There is no substitute for experience. Learn to Navigate and administer First Aid. You will get more satisfaction from progressing gradually towards harder and longer routes than you will attacking the biggest hills before you’ve developed the necessary skills.


    • Clothing – This should include warm, windproof and waterproof garments. Cotton shirts are cold when wet with sweat, modern wicking thermal vests are useful all year round. Wear boots. Take hat, gloves and a spare fleece; it is always colder on the tops.

    • Food – Eat well before you start, cereals & carbohydrates release energy slowly and constantly throughout the day. In addition to the usual sandwiches, take energy food such as chocolate, dried fruit, or glucose which restore energy quickly. Warm drinks do wonders for moral. Streams on mountains are drinkable if fast-running over stony beds.

    • Equipment – This must include map, and compass. Take a reliable watch, whistle, and torch (six blasts or flashes repeated at minute intervals signal an emergency). A survival bag or modern light-weight emergency shelter can also be invaluable. Mobile phones and GPS are useful tools but MUST NOT be relied upon entirely. Consider taking a basic First Aid Kit.

In winter conditions, an ice-axe and crampons may be needed. Climbers are urged to wear helmets, especially in winter conditions.


    • Company – There is safety in numbers but groups should ensure that party leaders have sufficient & relevant experience. Do not leave one or two behind to rest and catch up later. Discuss and agree a contingency plan with everyone. Take special care of the youngest and weakest in dangerous places. If you prefer to go alone accept the additional inherent risk.

    • Route Card Tell someone your planned route, starting & finishing points, and your expected time of return – remember to sign off with them when you are down. If plans or events change, let your friends & family know. If necessary tell the Police you are safely off the hill.

  • Emergencies Don’t press on if conditions are against you – turn back even if it upsets your plan. Send for help as soon as possible, but take time to assess the seriousness of the situation first – you may be able to help yourselves. Give first aid, and keep injured or exhausted people warm until help reaches you.

Dial 999 and state “Police for Mountain Rescue

Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team at Pillar rock, Ennerdale

Dangers which can be avoided

  • Precipices
  • Slopes of ice or steep snow
  • Very steep grass (especially frozen)
  • Unstable boulders
  • Gullies and stream beds
  • Streams in spate
  • Snow cornices on ridges or gully tops

Dangers which may surprise you

  • Weather changes – mist, gale, rain or snow,(get a forecast, and watch the sky)
  • Ice on path, know how to use ice axe & crampons
  • Excessive cold or heat (dress sensibly, and take spare clothing)
  • Exhaustion (know the signs; rest and keep warm)
  • Accidents or illness (don’t panic – if you send for help, make sure that the rescuers know exactly where to come)
  • Flight of time (learn your own pace – plan your walk – allow double time in winter or night time conditions)
  • Over-ambition

It is no disgrace to turn back if you are not certain. A party must be governed by the capabilities of the weakest member.


‘On The Fells’ contains information reproduced by kind permission of Mr Neil Dowie, a team member of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team and proprietor of The Royal Oak, Borrowdale.

Lakes and Coast

For many of us nothing beats ‘messing about in boats’. Just being on the water can be the best way to have fun with family and friends but it can also be potentially dangerous and accidents can occur. Nearly all accidents are preventable if you are sensible and are aware of safety procedures. It is important that you plan your trip properly as well as use the safety equipment that is required. If in doubt use a reputable sailing centre. You can find details of good sailing centres and boat hire here. Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Advice.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a fun packed, high adrenaline sport. Fundamentally, climbing is a potentially dangerous activity to participate in so to reduce risks each climber must accept that they are responsible for their own safety and act with appropriate care. If you are a novice we recommend that you start with an instructor or join a group session or a climbing club. All climbers should at least be aware of the following advice on these links to the Needle Sports website – for beginners and for the more advanced climber. Other useful safety information can be found on the British Mountaineering Council website


Canoeing is a hugely enjoyable and reasonably safe sport but it may also potentially be considered an enhanced risk activity. However, serious accidents are uncommon if the correct safety procedures and training are followed. Lack of knowledge, carelessness and overestimation of your own ability are three of the main factors that contribute to accidents whilst canoeing. If in doubt go to one of the many excellent instructors in the area to build your skills and confidence.


A list of golden rules to follow whilst canoeing can be found here from the British Canoeing Union