By Sarah Little
Adventure Projects Manager
A news story broke today about a woman rescued from Ben Nevis in shorts, carrying little more than a selfie stick and understandably suffering from hypothermia. You’d be forgiven for thinking this woman made a stupid mistake that no one else would ever make.
In truth, when you boil it down and accept her gracious apology to her rescuers, she is guilty of nothing more than something most of us have been guilty of too:
Underestimating our own environment.
Now, not many of us would climb a high mountain in shorts in March, but it’s easy in the UK to look across the seas when it comes to extremes in landscape, temperature and weather. We imagine active volcanoes erupting from malaria drenched jungle, delicate towers of ice clinging to thousands of metres of mountain above a base camp, skyscraper waves concealing whales that belittle double decker buses… but we do not often consider home.
Ben Nevis may not be a top ten highest peak, (let’s face it – it’s not even a top 400 highest peak) but that doesn’t mean it should be underestimated. The fact our number 1 is knee-height against other mountains is testament to just how high they are, not how small and easy Ben Nevis is.
Ben Nevis isn’t the only time our environments are underestimated.
We hear every summer of swimmers caught in ‘unexpectedly strong’ currents, surprised to be stung by jelly fish and accidentally trapped in high tides. We see walkers rescued from landslides and crevices and quicksand. None of these people have necessarily made stupid mistakes – and we are blessed with an amazing series of rescue teams to help us out of sticky situations – but it does go to show how quickly things can go wrong and how preparation goes a long way, even in the places we think we know well.
A lack of awareness at best can leave you enduring a miserable experience that should be fantastic, and at worst cost you your life.
We need to ensure we’re educated about our own environments and the risks they pose, before heading out into nature thinking it’s all cotton wool and safety nets because it doesn’t take long to get there.
Ben Fogle is fighting for more wilderness education in schools, and beyond the obvious health benefits this would have, perhaps it would leave our population more able to appreciate the power of nature. Our own known, comforting, back garden, nature.