IT may still, just, be October, but some of the first snows of winter have already fallen - and hill walkers in Helensburgh have been warned to make sure they are fully prepared for winter conditions.

And with the days shortening and clocks having just gone back by an our, darkness will be coming a lot sooner, making a head torch one of several essential pieces of kit.

Mountaineering Scotland mountain safety adviser Heather Morning said: “Short days and severe weather put greater demands on your equipment and your own ability and hillcraft.

“Now is the time to ‘winterise’ your rucksack – make sure you’re properly prepared for winter weather and have all the necessary equipment as well as adequate clothing.

“Planning for your route takes on extra importance too.

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“You need to factor in the reduced daylight hours and that weather and ground conditions could slow you down considerably, so it’s best not to be overambitious at the start of the season.”

From December 14, Sportscotland’s Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) at will again provide free daily reports on snow conditions and avalanche forecasts for six mountain areas of Scotland.

General hill walking and winter mountaineering advice is also available through the Mountaineering Scotland website at

And, in partnership with Tiso, Cotswold and Craigdon stores, the organisation is running a winter safety lecture tour.

Check out for dates and venues.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said: “We fully endorse the Mountaineering Scotland winter safety message and would encourage hillgoers to ensure that they have left details of their intended route and expected return time.

“At this time of year, mountain rescue teams are repacking the equipment needed for the shorter daylight hours, colder days and the approaching wintry weather.

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“More warm clothing, winter grade waterproofs, thicker and more pairs of gloves, warmer hats, goggles, larger torches with sufficient battery to get through a night.

“Axe, crampons, avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel will all be dusted off and checked ready for when needed.

“These days a range of navigational tools will all be carried to assist on dark nights: map and compass, GPS and smart phones with OS Locate or a mapping app, all weather proofed and tested to work in very wet and cold conditions and with enough spare batteries.

“Remember Mountain Rescue in Scotland is provided free by world class volunteers on call at all times and in all weathers.

“If you require assistance on the hills, dial 999 and ask for the police, then mountain rescue.”