Getting lost when out walking through Scotland’s hills and mountains is something many people try their best not to experience.

Preparation and training is essential for the walker.

Many of you will have no doubt heard stories of walkers getting lost while they have been trekking through the wilds and as such have wisely sought out the skills that are necessary to prevent it from happening to you.

A warning story

Earlier this year a trio of walkers strayed from their intended route due to a sudden spell of bad weather and they quickly found themselves lost on some very exposed land and without many clues to guide them back to safety.

The trio were well equipped and the leader had a mobile phone on which they were luckily able to call the local mountain rescue team and ask for advice on what they should do and, thanks to a very skilled mountain rescue coordinator, they were able to reorientate themselves and make their way back down to safety.

This story could have been very different If it weren’t for the skills of that coordinator.

So what should you do if you get lost?

The first and most important thing to do if you find that you have become lost is not to panic. A panicked mind is not a rational mind and panicking can drastically decrease your chances of finding your way back to safety.

Many years ago I was taught a great acronym for use when lost.

S.T.O.P.

STOP: Instead off carrying on walking and hoping that you will find your way again and, potentially getting yourself more lost or in danger, just stop.

THINK: Once stopped, calm yourself down and think rationally about the situation in which you have found yourself. In my experience, sitting down and having a cuppa and a bite to eat is a good way of calming and grounding yourself.

OBSERVE: Study your surroundings and try to identify the features that you are seeing in front of you on your map. Avoid picking out small features and instead look for large features like hill top radio masts, buildings or peaks.

Observing and identifying features in the landscape will allow you to orientate your map to your surroundings and, when paired with your compass, will give you an approximate position.

PLAN: After orientating your map you then need to plan your route back to safety. Ask yourself if you can you retrace your steps and if not can you identify a route that can get you back on track or to safety.

Rational thinking is key here as it can be tempting to take what you may perceive to be a short cut but, through panic, you may be opting for a route that is beyond your abilities or could be troublesome due to weather conditions. Take your time and carefully plan your route forward.

Practice makes perfect!

Practicing the aspects of S.T.O.P. is a great way of preparing yourself and others should you ever be unfortunate enough to find yourself lost while walking.

If you have any advice that you would like to share with others in the Fife walking community then get in touch with us at info@walkfife.com

Image courtesy of Silva

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