Going it solo - especially in scotland

I am just wondering what everyone’s perspectives are on hill walking on their own from a safety perspective. I walk alone in England quite regularly and always have an Emergency contact and tell them where i’m going and when i’m due back and let them know when i am back safe. I carry the usual equipment one should carry on the hill and surely having amateur radio equipment as well as a mobile phone makes it that little bit more safe in terms of communciation power?

I have had people mention walking alone in Scotland highlands as if its more dangerous than English hills? surely its just higher hills? Surely the safety regime and hill skills of the person are the same regardless of the area, they just have to know the nuances of that area?

Thinking about differences and never been there. yes big differences lot of our hills in England not on moors of prob are but even our local moors the climate can change so quickly than not on moors, seen it many a time, fine one minute and not the next and yet only few miles from nearest roads.

Scottish hills higher yes and prop further away from main roads etc and combined with this type of weather pattern probable worse as seen the programs on Scottish mountains and it seems the pit falls and dangers are greater.

But being well armed before going etc and the precautions you take very good idea. So why not have base of ops on where your staying and talk to them of what your doing and the usual stuff you take for granted in England and take it with you.

Bet many a party that,s got experiences of these mountians up north can tell a tale or too.


A competent hill walker would be in no more danger in Scotland than he would be in other mountain areas. The mountains are bigger, the climate windier and colder, and the weather can change more rapidly than further south, but these are matters that the hill walker should be able to deal with. The big difference is that many parts of the Scottish Highlands are very remote and you should not expect to see other people away from the most popular areas. This means that if you injure yourself or fall ill you are unlikely to have another party happen on you and offer help. I don’t think this should deter you, being solitary in the mountains is a fine experience, but you should be aware of it.


The issues are greater remoteness and significantly fewer people out on the hills. Before technology was available, people walked the hills and lived! So you plan of letting people know where you are going and when you are likely to return is a sound and sensible.

What is surprising is how viable mobile phones can be. They towers are built were economically sensible. If there’s nobody to make calls, no need for a tower. In places of sparse population you don’t get so many towers unless they’re subsidised or they happen to cover a major road.

This means you tend to find good coverage along the A roads in the remote parts. But that means voice and SMS will work but data maybe non-existent or very slow. Certainly plenty of places where GPRS is as good as it gets. It’s not sensible to rely on just one provider only. I know Martyn M1MAJ @M1MAJ uses a global roaming SIM in the UK that works on multiple UK networks. I have a bunch of old phones with PAYG SIMs in them that live in the box of SOTA gear, they get carried if I think that 3 coverage will be lacking.

Having said all that, you cannot rely on their being any mobile service for any provider!

As Brian says, a competent walker is in no more danger apart from you may not happen across other walkers if you need aid. I go out solo all the time and take the sensible things and ensure people know where I am going. Only once I have thought a particular walk was ill-advised. That was when I was looking at doing Cranstackie and friends near the NW tip of Scotland. Cloud was down to 600m, it was showering and windy and those summits were 800m+ and were a medium walk. I looked at the start and the sky and thought it would be a waste to climb them in pish weather and did Farmmheall and Glass Bhein instead. And got soaked!

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Hi Anthony

Don’t fall ill with summit fever and feel because you have spent the money and time to travel so far that you have to push beyond your limits to reach set times on summits.
Take a screen shot of your route send it to someone also have a self rescue plan with routes in place were you can descend as safely and quickly as possible to a prominent feature on the ground/map were rescue teams may RV, an orange bothy bag is also handy but may be hard to see in poor weather.

If you do seeing a living soul on the hills talk to them drop in to the conversation the W’s - where ur going (drop a few hill names), what your doing (carp fishing with your mast) where you are from.
I work alone in a few remote tower sites your best bet is to have old style phone that works on GPRS conection or you maybe able to change it on your network settings. Vodafone is probably your best bet for this, text messages are always your best bet switch your phone of and on again as your phone is the device that looks for the cell site and then follows good operating procedure setting the power limit needed for communication after synchronising.

Hope you have a cracking time

The advice from Andy FMF is good, take a second SIM ideally in its own handset. That can improve your chances of coverage. A Manx Telecom sim is ideal as will roam on to all networks, they are used in the Highlands by telco’s and utilities who cant justify Iridium.

If you just want to take a second prepay sim, select it like this

Main sim = o2, Voda, Tesco, Asda take an EE sim
Main sim = EE, 3, Virgin, BT take a Voda sim

This is derived from the way the networks share masts and infrastructure, for example Voda and o2 share a lot of masts so their coverage very similar so little point in taking both.

Being able to switch to 2G only, 3G only and 4G in your settings can somtimes help near a summit when you have signal, but cant make a call / move data. That’s typically when you have too many sites in range or possibly the serving cell on 2G is more than 35Km away. But normally leave it set to 2G/3G/4G auto.

Good luck and enjoy your trip
73 Gavin

You could always purchase a Personal Locator Beacon and then sell it on eBay after the trip.

Ages ago I rented a sat phone for a wilderness backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevada. Wasn’t cheap but my wife was happy to know I hadn’t been consumed by a bear at the end of each day.