Rescuers’ story stirs up web interest

oggie rescue 

Ogwen Valley team members prepare to rescue trapped climbers

Oh wow. What a fantastic three days since this blog on Saturday featured the work of the UK’s volunteer mountain rescue teams.

It has been tweeted, retweeted, appeared on other social media and has generated a wonderful reaction. I just hope it helps the Llanberis team to raise enough extra cash to pay for the essential repairs to their three vehicles. Why does anyone intentionally damage what are three essentially emergency service ambulances/rescue team transporters? Such mindless acts are beyond my level of understanding.

One of the tweets received was from the mountain rescuers. They thanked me for what they described as my ‘kind’ words. Well, ok the blog post was certainly not unkind but ‘kind’, no. The words used were carefully chosen, they were accurate and truthful. Such people are largely unsung heroes who face each challenge with courage and determination.

Of course, although the post only mentioned the two teams who operate nearest to my home, there are so many other teams around the country whose members are as equally dedicated, brave and committed to keeping alive anyone who runs into trouble on their ‘patch’.

Then there are similar volunteers who belong to cave rescue organisations. These people, all experienced and highly trained potholers, descend into the depths of the earth to find and rescue anyone who is having difficulty returning to the surface.

I have only tried exploring a cave system once – and that was as an adult leader with the Scouts while under the care of a professional guide. The cave was not difficult because the Scouts could be as young as 11 but trying to squeeze through narrow gaps while crawling snakelike on my stomach was not a pleasant experience. There may have been no fear showing externally but, oh boy, to get outside again was just heavenly. Never again, that was the private and silent vow made.

• Towards the end of last week, police were concerned over the safety of Stephen Longfellow, an experienced walker who was missing. They had found his car by Tryfan, one of Snowdonia’s most impressive mountains. It is a challenge to reach the summit, something I did years ago, but there are many places of danger on the mountain and in the surrounding area.missing man

Tryfan is slap bang in the middle of Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue team’s patch and so their members were asked by the police to look for the missing man. Searches were mounted in the midst of other rescue call-outs.

Now, there is a difference between searching for someone who is known to be alive or who has not been      Stephen Longfellow                                                        lost and maybe injured for long as against someone who has been missing for days. In the latter case, they hope to find and rescue whoever it is but they realise it may be a search and recover operation instead of a rescue. 

This time, unfortunately, the Oggie team members had to recover a man’s lifeless body after they found it on Sunday. The body was then taken for formal identification. The team’s Chris Lloyd told the BBC that he believed the man had fallen “quite some distance”.

As you can see, not all search and rescue operations have joyous endings.

Hero volunteers need support

Llanberis MR team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team using stretcher to remove casualty to safety.

Everybody has their own ideas about what makes someone a hero and, of course I have tremendous respect for everyone doing difficult and often dangerous jobs in the armed forces and the main emergency services – police, firefighters, ambulance crews and coastguards.

They key word there, though, is ‘job’; they are being paid to do that, although that makes it no less dangerous and often they go above and beyond what duty demands.

Similarly, I am not wishing to underplay the importance of once in a lifetime acts of heroism by anybody faced with a difficult situation and attempting to save the day. Each such act, though, is very much a one-off.

The people who I admire and feel deserve greater recognition for their dedication, commitment and heroic actions in all sorts of often atrocious weather conditions are the members of our mountain rescue teams as well as the crews of the lifeboats that dot the shores of the UK.

These people are all volunteers. Climbers who have decided to help others and seafaring folk who have chosen to put other peoples’ lives first at sea.

Fairly close to where I currently live, there are two superbly run teams of mountain rescuers: Llanberis and Ogwen Valley. There are plenty more but I got to know some of the members of these over the last 20-plus years. In fact, so long has it been that the ones I knew have probably all retired by now.

Anyway, to cut a long story down a bit, Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, whose patch includes Snowdon itself, have just dealt with the busiest month in their long history. They were called out an amazing 34 times in August, with the most hectic day being Wednesday 12th. This involved responding to seven call-outs in just five hours. And as most rescues can take a few hours, they often had to have more than one rescue team out at the same time.

Chairman of the Llanberis team is Rob Johnson said: “More than half of the 34 incidents that we were called to in August were as a result of people being lost on the mountain. With a little preparation this is not necessary.

“People often treat Snowdon as a tourist destination, rather than a mountain, and this leads people into being poorly equipped for the conditions the mountain often presents. Having a map and a compass and the knowledge of how to use them costs very little but will massively add to the enjoyment of a mountain day and will take a great strain off volunteer rescue services.”

The problem seems to be that Snowdon has a railway linking Llanberis with the summit where, during the summer tourist season, the building is open and houses a café, bar, gift shop and other facilities. It is easy to see how people do get the ‘tourist attraction’ impression.

Actually, I must share this true story with you. Before I was diagnosed with MS and at a time I could still get around easily, I loved to go mountain walking. Well, this day I had walked up to the top of Snowdon and after getting my fill of great views in all directions (not possible when the clouds roll in), I decided to enjoy a cuppa before starting the descent. No sooner had I sat down in the café than a trainload of tourists arrived. One woman spotted a dog and said if she had known dogs were allowed, she’d have brought her beloved pet with her.

I am afraid that I could not help myself. “Madam,” I said,sarda dog “That is a Search and Rescue dog.”

She was surprised and said, “Do people get lost up here then?” She had no idea how dangerous Snowdon and the other mountains are. “Madam, people die up here,” I replied.

                                       Search and Rescue Dog ready for action.

 

♦ Finally, I am sad to report that all three of the Llanberis team vehicles were disabled during an attempted theft of their doors. The would-be thieves also cut through wiring in an attempt to disable the alarms.

Llanberis MR team vandalised

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team vehicles with doors removed and wiring cut.

 

Police are investigating and the team is having to rely on neighbouring teams for vehicles as Llanberis team has been left unable to deploy team members or equipment.

Since posting about their loss on Facebook, the team has received a great level of support with many people asking how they can donate. If you would like to help these brave volunteers get back on the road, you can donate by visiting the donation page of the team’s website here: http://www.llanberismountainrescue.co.uk/donate

You can also donate via text, by sending a message to 70070 and writing: “LMRT14” followed by the amount you’d like to donate e.g. “£5” or “£10”. I know they would be thankful for any donation, however small.