An iphone app has been officially launched today that provides weather and ground conditions info on the mountains of Snowdonia. It also includes traditional safety advice, and - it's claimed - may help users plan their hill journeys more safely, encouraging novices to go better equipped.
The Mountain Info app for the iphone, which stems from a project we originally reported back in June, was formally launched today at Pen y Pass by MP Hywel Williams. It has support from the BMC, North Wales Mountain Rescue Association, Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team and the North Wales Mounainsafe Group (which includes North Wales Police and the RAF Search and Rescue 22 Squadron), Snowdonia National Park Authority, the Met Office, Mountain Leader Training Wales, and Plas y Brenin, the National Mountain Centre. It has funding from the Welsh Government via Sport Wales.
"You don't have to own a smartphone to benefit from the new info"
Provision similar to the Scottish Avalanche Information Service or the Lake District's felltop conditions reports has long been lacking in North Wales. Luckily you don't have to own a smartphone to benefit from the new info. As well as the Mountain Info app (which is available from iTunes) the Met Office Mountain forecast page for Snowdonia now includes a daily report from park rangers on ground conditions and snow levels on the mountains during the winter months, including advice on the skills and equipment required to enjoy these conditions safely. These are also available on Twitter (if you must) by following @safesnowdonia or @eryridiogel. Will the easy availability of this info help discourage trainer - clad novices from tackling Crib Goch in full winter conditions?
Hopes are high that the app will help reduce mountain rescue callouts in the area, particularly incidents involving the poorly prepared. During 2011 411 calls for assistance to Mountain Rescue Teams were made in North Wales, resulting in 291 Mountain Rescue team deployments. Recent research shows that a significant number of avoidable calls were made by people who were inadequately prepared or did not have the required skills or equipment for their activity. A survey "Reducing Mountain Accidents in Snowdonia" concluded that young male adults from urban areas were mainly responsible for these avoidable calls.
The Mountain Info Service Project aims to target this particular audience by using the modern technology with which the yoof are au fait.
Hywel Williams MP said:
'I am delighted to be launching this innovative Project. People are increasingly dependent on mobile phone technology – and mobile internet in particular – to access information. By applying the latest technology to the field of mountain safety, which is such an important issue in areas such as Snowdonia, there is a greater chance of accident prevention and of promoting the safe enjoyment of our wonderful hills and mountains. In so doing, the strain on local Mountain Rescue Teams will also be eased. I congratulate everyone involved with the Mountain Info Service Project, and hope that all mountaineers and walkers, be they local residents or visitors, will take full advantage of the advice and information that is available.'
On behalf of Snowdonia National Park Authority, Director of Land Management, Emyr Williams said:
'We are extremely pleased to be part of this Mountain Info Service Project. As an Authority, we sincerely hope that this iPhone app will be a useful tool for visitors to Snowdonia and will not only contribute to their enjoyment of the area, but that they also enjoy their visit safely. The project also contributes towards the Welsh Government's health and well being agenda, from the psychological and physical wellbeing of visitors, to the economic wellbeing of local communities in the National Park.'
Elfyn Jones, (BMC) Officer for Wales, added:
'To help this particular audience, as well as the wider public in general, the Project was developed to help reduce the number of unnecessary emergency call outs and, more importantly, help walkers to enjoy the great outdoors safely and responsibly. Although visitors may have researched the area on the internet before coming, some may not have the required skills to read and use maps and have not prepared themselves for travelling safely in the mountain environment. This app provides the necessary information for visitors who are planning a trip to Snowdon and will help them make an informed judgement before they begin their journey.'