HIKERS and walkers have been urged to heed weather warnings after a number of new year search and rescue missions.
The Irish Coast Guard said it had a busy start to 2013 - including a dramatic 11-hour operation to save a man stranded on high sea cliffs in Co Donegal.
A helicopter was sent to Slieve League - among the highest sea cliffs in Europe - yesterday after a distress call at around 1.15pm.
But the rescue crew was unable to winch the 28-year-old, from Carlow, off the cliffs because of his precarious location and the rough weather.
A cliff descent was launched but progress was again hampered because of shingle on the cliffside, the position of the hiker and the difficult weather.
Search teams eventually reached him after 10.30pm and began to bring him slowly up the cliff, which took a further hour and a half.
He was then taken to Sligo General Hospital by the Coast Guard helicopter, and treated for injuries to his back and leg.
Killybegs Coast Guard Unit, Donegal Mountain Rescue and the Aranmore lifeboat were all involved in the mission.
Chris Reynolds, director of the Irish Coast Guard, said it was one of several search and rescue operations over the new year, with others in Wicklow, Dublin, Waterford, Limerick and Louth.
"Last year was the busiest ever for the Irish Coast Guard and already in the early days of 2013 we have provided assistance in a number of incidents," he said.
"I am appealing again to the public that they heed local advice and be aware of weather conditions if walking or hiking along our coastline, particularly during winter time."
He urged people not to walk on cliff paths alone, and said there was safety in numbers.
"Let somebody know when and where you are going and what time you will be back.
"Stay well away from the cliff edge, both top and bottom.
"Don't attempt to rescue people or pets if they fall over the edge.
"If assistance is required dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard."
Figures released last week show the Irish Coast Guard saved 161 lives during 2012.
It responded to almost 2,000 incidents in the busiest year since the search and rescue service was formed in 1822.