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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Warning on mobile 999 'over-use'
Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team vehicle
Mountain rescue: The Ogwen team is based near Tryfan
A mountain rescue team is urging walkers not to reach for their mobile phones as soon as they find themselves in difficulty in the hills.

Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team says almost half of its callouts could be avoided if people made a '999' call for help only as a last resort.

The plea was backed by Welsh Sports Minster Alun Pugh, a keen mountaineer.

He said he understands why the rescue volunteers are "hacked off" at the high rate of needless alerts.

We're all volunteers, it all costs us time from our families or from our work
Chris Lloyd, rescuer

As the summer season walking peak approaches, Chris Lloyd, of Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team warned that too many people are making emergency calls before they have exhausted all the alternatives.

He said people should use their common sense - even if that means staying out all night in mild to moderate weather conditions.

The 50-strong team of volunteers is expecting another busy summer, especially as some of their calls could be unnecessary.

He said: "Out of 60 rescues last year, there were 24 I could write off as saying if the people hadn't had a mobile phone, there would have been no need for us to go whatsoever.

"They would either have spent a cold night on the mountain and walked off in the morning, or they would have walked off eventually without injury.

Alun Pugh AM
Mr Pugh says rescue teams are "hacked off" at needless alerts

"I know people love their mobile phone," he said, "it keeps them in touch with the rest of the world, but there's more to mountaineering than the mobile phone.

"You can't shelter under a mobile phone, you can't eat a mobile phone when you have run out of food. It won't warm you up."

Mr Lloyd said people needed to be better prepared.

"We're all volunteers, it all costs us time from our families or from our work, diesel in the car or whatever to come out and it's very frustrating when you go up and rescue someone and all they've got is the mobile phone, no map, no compass.

"Or even if they do have a map and a compass and don't know how to use them.

"If there is an injury then, yes, use the mobile phone once all else fails, but put the mobile phone at the bottom of the rucksack and use your map, compass, whistle, torch and all the rest of it before you eventually call for help," he added.

Sports Minster Alun Pugh, who has funded a specialist weather website for the Welsh mountains, backed the call.

Chris Lloyd, Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team
Chris Lloyd advises people to put their phones in their rucksacks

He pointed to better mobile technology in addition to the boom in number of phone users.

He said: "The mountain rescue teams are volunteers who do a terrific job, sometimes in very difficult conditions.

"I can entirely understand when some are hacked off at being called at out 3am when it's not an emergency at all, just a simple lack of preparedness."

"In modern society, we're accustomed to the comforts of life and there's no thought of spending a night out in the open when, in this summer weather, we're unlikely to come to any harm."

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