Two walkers who sparked a rescue operation near Glencoe have been fined for breaching travel restrictions.
A member of the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team was injured during the effort to get the pair, who travelled from Oban, down Buachaille Etive Mor.
The two men, aged 21 and 27, raised the alarm at about 3.30pm on Hogmanay.
One of them suffered a leg injury as he descended the 3,640ft Munro, and 25 members of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team were called out.
The team reached the pair on foot to assist them down the hill.
The injured man was taken by ambulance to hospital for assessment, while a member of the rescue team was also treated for an injury after damaging ligaments in his ankle.
They have now been fined for breaching the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
MEN ISSUED WITH FIXED PENALTY NOTICES FOLLOWING TRAVEL BREACH TO CLIMB MUNROOn Thursday, 31 December, 2020, police…
Inspector Kevin Macleod said: “The men had travelled from Oban to hike this route, and found themselves in difficulty as the light was fading at 3.25pm when police and mountain rescue team were called.
“The rescue took a total of 108 man-hours and the team stood down at 7.30pm.
“Both men, aged 21 and 27, were issued with fixed penalty notices for breaching travel regulations.
“We continue to ask people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to protect the NHS and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.”
Andy Nelson, team leader of Glencoe Mountain Rescue, said: “We will always continue to provide the vital mountain rescue team service that we are committed to, however, the volunteers assisting the men did feel vulnerable due to the inevitable close contact required and we have to prioritise the health of our members in order to continue to provide this vital service.
“It is always a risk that someone does get hurt. It is inherently risky going out at night in winter or any conditions for that matter.
“It is almost not expected but it is a risk that we accept.
“It is a real shame for the lad who did it as he will now be off work for about six weeks.”
Mr Nelson said he would not pass judgment at the men for breaching travel restrictions, however, did say it raised concern for team members at a point where Covid transmission has increased across the country.
He added: “The main thrust of our work is to get people out of a hazardous situation and the fact that these guys were from outwith the area is a concerning matter in terms of making sure that team members remain safe against the Covid virus, but all mountaineers are the same. We are all the same people.
“In the first lockdown, I did start to consider how many people and who would be called out. Higher risk members wouldn’t be called out and that is certainly something I am considering now.
“If we are entering to a more vulnerable phase of this pandemic then I will certainly need to consider who is called out rather than everyone because some of the team are a bit older or have close relatives who might be in that at-risk group.”
Leader urges mountaineers to go ‘fully equipped and well informed’
The experienced mountaineer has urged people taking to the hills to be “fully equipped and well informed” as winter conditions set in.
He added: “It is absolutely key to consider that it is still early winter so the days are short.
“Making sure you set off early, have a head torch, have crampons, an axe and all the warm clothing you need – waterproofs and warm layers – that is absolutely key.
“Obviously have the knowledge of how to use that equipment.
“Probably the single biggest contributing factor to callouts where people aren’t injured at this time of year is that they are just overtaken by darkness too quickly.
“People setting off in the dark and coming back in daylight is better than setting off in daylight and coming back in the dark.
“It is full winter conditions so go fully equipped and well informed.”