Mountain rescues have risen by 20% in northern Scotland this year as increasing numbers of people head outdoors for exercise.
Police Scotland said call-outs across the Highlands, north-east and Tayside have increased by a fifth in 2020 in comparison to any other year.
Rescuers have encountered people without basic survival gear and warned people to take precautions as Scotland’s mountains are “extremely unpredictable”.
The force is now urging hillwalkers and climbers to plan their excursions and be prepared for all eventualities when they head out on a walk or climb.
Sergeant Peter Lorrain-Smith, Police Scotland’s mountain rescue co-ordinator, said: “The north of Scotland is lucky to have some of the most beautiful hills and mountains in the country, and over the past few months we have experienced a significant increase in the number of people heading outdoors to enjoy themselves.
“By all means I do not want to put anyone off appreciating our great outdoors, however, I must highlight just how crucial it is that you are prepared.
“Plan the route you are going to walk and consider whether it is safe to climb and if you have the ability to complete it safely.”
He added: “Also, take sensible precautions and ensure you have suitable equipment, clothing and supplies.
“Unfortunately, we continue to come across examples of people not being prepared for the walks or climbs they have embarked on, including people without maps, torches or basic survival gear, nor the skills and knowledge to use them.
“Many people have told us this is the first time they have ever hill-walked or climbed and didn’t appreciate just how quickly conditions can turn.”
Police Scotland said that in Tayside the mountain rescue team has deployed on 64 occasions since January, in the north-east teams have deployed nearly 50 times and in the Highlands they have been called out to more than 210 incidents.
Mr Lorrain-Smith said: “Our message remains simple – come to the hills and mountains and enjoy them but be prepared for all eventualities and don’t go beyond your ability – preparation is the price of admission.
“Scottish mountains are by their very nature extremely unpredictable, therefore it is important that people take as many precautions as possible and plan ahead.”
Police Scotland’s mountain rescue teams continue to carry out training during the pandemic and continue to work alongside other mountain rescue teams in Scotland.
Mr Lorrain-Smith said anyone needing help because they are lost or injured should phone 999, ask for police then mountain rescue.
But he warned help may take longer than normal to arrive due to the current coronavirus restrictions.
Scottish Mountain Rescue will be launching its #ThinkWINTER campaign in early December which Police Scotland will be supporting.
The #ThinkWINTER advice includes checking the mountain weather forecast, being prepared to turn back if the weather or conditions change, taking warm layers and plenty of food and drink and letting someone know where you are going and what time you will be back.