THE leader of a mountain rescue group has warned people to be properly prepared before they go out walking on the fells, amid a rise in call outs in 2018.

Richard Warren, chairman of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, made the call after he reported that mountain rescuers in Cumbria had been called out 654 times in 2018, a rise on the 627 of the previous year.

He said around 190 of these call outs were "avoidable" rescues caused by a lack of proper equipment or preparation among walkers.

There are 12 mountain rescue teams in Cumbria, including Duddon and Furness, Coniston, Langdale Ambleside and Wasdale.

They are staffed by 435 volunteers and funded through donations.

Mr Warren, part of Wasdale Mountain Rescue, said: "It is concerning that there has been a trend over the last 20 years showing a gradual rise in the number of call outs we deal with.

"Many of these we have seen are from injuries. And accidents can happen anywhere - on the way to the shops and up a mountain.

"There are also a number of avoidable rescues, caused by people heading out up a mountain underprepared."

He advised people on how to stay safe on a mountain walk, saying: "People need to make sure they have the proper equipment, including a compass, a torch and proper footwear.

"People might go out early in the morning and they will be OK but actually they can end up getting into trouble if they get disorientated at the top of a mountain and can't find their way down.

"Often we get called out to rescue people who have got split up from their families, especially in bad weather.

"There are also a lot of people know who get lost because they rely on smart devices for navigation rather than using a map or a compass."

He also advised people to check whether they can avoid calling a mountain rescue to save them if there was any other way to get off the mountain, such as looking for other walkers, and checking the weather forecast before going on a walk.