2015 Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team – Call – out and a few choice words


See below and article by Lochaber MRT on a Callout last two days ago it was placed on Facebook and Twitter and up to just now received over 120000 hits. The power of modern Media love it or hate it we have to use it.  It explains a bit of what this incredible bunch of people who have been extremely busy over the last few weeks. Call – outs on Ben Nevis can be wild and this is third overnight incident on Ben Nevis the other two on technical climbs Tower Ridge and Castle Ridge more Alpine than Scottish at times. There have been many others incidents during this spell and many teams and the helicopters have done an incredible job. The Mountain Rescue team and this is so hard to get through to laymen have a duty of care to go an assist those who need help on the hills as we as a community do every weekend in the clubs and cities all over UK. Little is made of the expense caused but a Mountain Rescue call out does, the media loves it. Lochaber have raised there heads over the parapet and spoke of some real worries in Mountain Rescue in 2015 and many I have spoken about on my blog. Mountain Rescue Teams are not guarded by an Angel and the risks taken at times are very hard to judge.  I feel that we are so lucky that the training and local knowledge keeps accidents to a minimum for Rescuers. It is always hard to call when to call off a search or wait for daybreak, some of the hardest decisions ever made by a Team Leader or leader on the hill. When people have fallen and need help we have to do our best and this teams do all over the UK.  When you read the article below that was published in Facebook and twitter do not just read about the epic dig deep and this will give you a feel of a Service that we should be proud of. I know the Ben fairly well and used to send my up and coming Party Leaders into place like Coire Eoghiann. 5 Finger Gully  and the great Nevis Gullies. These are  wild places and to search at night in these wild places is a place to worry most, so I never envy anyone going into these inhospitable places. One of my early call outs was in nearly the exact same place , I have added it at the end of the Lochaber article. It had a much sadder outcome for 2 of the party involved in 1974, they were very lucky two nights ago. Any Comments?

Ben Nevis Coire Euoghain and the Waterslide.

Ben Nevis Coire Eoghainn and the Waterslide.


On behalf of John (Team Leader) and Donald (Deputy Team Leader) we are going to break with tradition and make a very public thank you to all the team members who were out on the rescue last night. The conditions were extremely difficult and dangerous (see http://www.sais.gov.uk/_pdf/5021/).

Everyone involved last night put in a major effort in horrendous conditions to assist casualties who did not make our job any easier. Conditions made navigation very difficult and communications were very poor. We had located the casualties using a phone app. We knew that one had fallen but the others could hear his shouts so we knew once we had located the others we would be able to get to the one who had fallen.

One decided to try to walk out and by a stroke of luck was found wandering over the summit plateau by a mountain guide who we asked to walk the guy off. In the meantime the two guys at the point we had located with the phone app decided to move down towards their mate who was still shouting. We told them again to stay where they were but they obviously knew better and carried on which resulted in both of them falling down over the crags at the head of Coire Eoghainn. They both fell 200 metres plus past their mate who was stuck on some steep nasty ground. Luckily they both escaped with minor injuries – probably due to the amount of snow cushioning their landings over the steep ground.

As we could not find the two guys at the location we thought they were at, we spent a lot of time trying to locate exactly where they were. The only clue was loud shouting from the casualty below. The Team then set up multiple abseils to try and locate the casualties over very difficult ground and iffy anchors. Lots of gear abandoned on the abseils plus 300 metres of rope trashed.

A team who had been dropped at base of the Coire had by this time climbed up and located the two guys who had fallen furthest. They were then walked down to a location where Rescue 137 could pick them up. Two of the guys climbed up to the more seriously injured casualty and packaged him up while the team from above came down. Multiple lowers later they managed to get the guy down the side of the Waterslide to the roadside where he was taken to the Belford Hospital.

Rescue 137 also need a special mention, as conditions made flying to pick up the two casualties from the lip of the Coire very much at the limit. They reluctantly decided after this to return to their base. We are extremely grateful for the assistance we received as without them we would still be out there and the outcome may not have been same. Hopefully this is not their last visit to Lochaber before the Sea kings are mothballed on the 1st of April. Bristows have a hard act to follow.

Everyone in the Team are volunteers and the only perk they got from this rescue was breakfast provided by Chris at 4 o’clock this morning before they made their way back to work. Everyone on the hill and flying were putting their lives on the line for frankly some very inexperienced hill walkers who were not equipped for a winter mountaineering expedition.

We do not normally criticise casualties as 99.9% of the rescues we do are for well well equipped, experienced walkers and climbers who have had an unfortunate incident outside their control. We are all mountaineers ourselves and what we do is for our own community who benefit hugely from the money generated by outdoor sports in Lochaber. However, a line was probably crossed last night which made the risks a little less palatable for both the Team and the RAF.

However, before anyone jumps on the band wagon and bleats that we should be charging for rescues – by introducing charges you would need a professional rescue service which just in the Lochaber area alone would cost the public purse millions of pounds to cover never mind the rest of Scotland. Where do you draw the line – do you charge a rugby player with and injury for the NHS cost of treating them?

In Scotland, we have a world-class mountain rescue service which is on par (if not better) than some of the professional rescue services elsewhere in the world, delivered at a minimal cost to the tax payer – which provides a service for one of the largest participant sports in the UK. Many of the remote communities mountain rescue teams operate out of in Scotland depend on the spend of mountain sports to survive and we do not want to take money away from them through some dubious insurance scheme.

We are seeing major challenges to mountain rescue, particularly in the Highlands, with the introduction of a single police force and the privatisation of the search and rescue helicopter service which is making our role more complicated than it need be. We are also concerned about potential dilution of funds which were originally being ear marked for mountain rescue being diverted to other areas which are not technically mountain rescue – albeit as important. With the Police having to make budget savings there is a risk that some of the roles they have traditionally covered now being farmed out to mountain rescue teams, particularly in the Lowland setting which is putting the allocation for the teams that operate in the remote mountainous regions at risk.

Rant over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well done Lochaber you were brilliant last night.

Some things do not change?

1974 incident

1974 incident

11 March 1974 – this was a wild winter call out for me on really steep and unfamiliar ground

Narrative – 4 walkers were moving across the top plateau of Ben Nevis on 10 March 1974 at 1500 hours. They put a bearing on their compasses of due west and finished up on very steep snow and ice above 41/163709. the cliffs of Coire Eoghainn One slipped and disappeared out of sight; another of the part went to investigate and disappeared out of sight. The other two summoned help from Fort William Police. One fatality was brought down at 0130 by the Lochaber MRT. The RAF Kinloss Team were asked to assist and the team was called out at 0215. The team were briefed by Lochaber T/L and the search stared at first light after a 3 hour drive to Fort William. The other body was located at 1100 hours and it was lowered over very steep ground for over 1000 feet and then carried to below cloud to a waiting helicopter. This was a very tricky incident and the comments of the Team Leader Steve Reeve wrote this:

The Ultra radios were unreliable and contact was lost with the search parties at times.

There is a need for better crampons on such steep ice-covered ground. These should be adjustable as the ones we are issued with need fitted to each pair of boots by heat treatment. At present there is no one at RAF Kinloss qualified to heat and fit them, several crampons broke!

It was a wild place and I went back to gain more knowledge of this area  for future call – outs.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Enviroment, Friends, History, Mountain rescue, Scottish winter climbing., Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 2015 Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team – Call – out and a few choice words

  1. Chris Morris says:

    As an ex member of the Dartmoor Rescue team, I know exactly where you’re coming from. Our voluntary rescue service is second to none. You’re doing a cracking job up there guys!!


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