A series of signs have been installed on Snowdon to try to reduce the number of lost walkers, and to aid the location of misplaced parties during mountain rescues. The small discs have been fitted to stiles and gate posts on the mountain, bearing the grid reference of each location.
Snowdonia National Park Warden Gruff Owen explains the principles behind the measure:
'The idea for placing grid references on footpath furniture originally came from local mountain rescue teams. By working closely with recreation groups through the Mountainsafe partnership we've developed the idea so that it's as unobtrusive as possible.'
'The markers are being placed on pre-existing stiles and gates so that temporarily disoriented walkers who've brought a map and remember their geography lessons, will easily be able to pinpoint their position. I hope the markers will also serve as a reminder for some to polish up on their map and compass skills.'
This new measure has been developed by the Mountainsafe Partnership and implemented by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, as part of a wider safety campaign that has already seen the launch earlier this year of a free smartphone app, the Mountain Info Service, which provides weather information, specialist advice and video clips (see UKH news).
The National Park Warden Service also plays an active role in promoting mountain safety. Along with a visible presence on the mountain, a twitter service was launched which updates users on potential risks and links directly to the Met Office's weather forecast for Snowdonia. A set of commissioned designs by illustrator Jac Jones have also been distributed amongst businesses in the National Park to reinforce the safety message.
Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team deal with 150-200 incidents per year. Team Chairman John Grisdale has welcomed the introduction of the discs, saying:
'Although it's rare for an incident to occur directly next to a stile or a gate, walkers often become disoriented and rescue teams spend hundreds of volunteer man-hours trying to locate people who are lost but unhurt. These discs are a simple idea which will allow disoriented people to locate themselves and could prevent them from having to call us in the first place. They will also promote grass root navigation skills required to travel safely in the mountains.'
So far reactions on the twitter account @safesnowdonia have been mostly positive:
'genius idea! Every national trail could follow suit!?'
'Great idea. They're not intrusive but will help greatly with navigation particularly for novices.'
'Would have been really useful when I did my ML! Seriously though, great idea, might even encourage map carrying to locate.'
However at least one tweeter has pointed out a possible loophole:
'trouble is, the folk that might need this info are also the sort not likely to be carrying a map. Kinda defeats the object.'