CLACKS hillwalkers have been urged to exercise caution when venturing onto the Ochils following a busy period for the volunteer rescue team.

The Ochil Mountain Rescue Team (OMRT) was dispatched to the Blairdenon Hills late on Wednesday afternoon when a pair of walkers became disorientated in the freezing conditions.

Secretary Ross MacIntyre said what would have been a straight forward rescue in the summer took around five hours.

He told the Advertiser: "Given it was getting dark and it is very cold at the moment, we decided to send a number of team members from the south side and from the north side.

"Conditions are pretty slippy – certainly lower down the hill – so we wanted to get a number of different routes so we could reach the two walkers as quickly as possible.

"It took a couple of hours to reach the casualties just due to the conditions. Once the walkers were reached, team members warmed them up and gave them some food and spare clothing and torches and walked them off the hill back down towards Menstrie."

With the team having been called out several times in the past few weeks, Ross urged anyone considering getting out into the hills to plan carefully.

"All the members of Ochil Mountain Rescue Team are hillwalkers, climbers, mountaineers, so we know the advantages of getting out in the hills, especially in the winter," he said.

"It can be some fantastic days on the hills, but what we would encourage is to make sure they have the skills and the equipment to be able to deal with the conditions for the day, that they plan and also plan for if things go wrong.

"Since the latter half of 2020, it has been a busy time for the team. We are always happy to respond to people that require us, but we would like people to plan their day and given the situation, stick to plans that are well within their capabilities."

Walkers are also being warned that the Covid-19 pandemic has meant changes to the way OMRT respond to call outs.

"It takes us a bit longer than it maybe would do in normal circumstances," Ross added. "We have to make a decision on how many people to deploy on the hill.

"We don't want to send everybody as if there is a Covid incident, that could compromise the whole team which is something we would not want to do.

"One of the biggest messages is, if people find they are in difficulty, the best and quickest way of getting help is to dial 999 and ask for police and then the mountain rescue."