Rescue in Skye a great effort by 3 teams and various agencies. Its Head – torch time on the hills.

After all the politics  in the last few blogs it is great to see that the Mountain Rescue Teams are as always helping those in trouble on our mountains. Cairngorm MRT were out at the weekend as well so the job goes on and there is little media interest in these very successful  call – outs?

Skye in a misty day never easy and at night hard going.

Skye in a misty day never easy and at night hard going.

This is from the Kintail Mountain Rescue Face book page.

Call Out 23/10/15
“A call from Police Scotland was received just after 5pm to assist Skye MRT who were dealing with an incident where a female in a group who were near the summit of Sgurr an Fheadain had fallen and suffered a serious leg injury at about 1pm. With very poor conditions a coastguard helicopter was unable to approach the scene leaving Skye MRT to lower then carry the casualty back out.
Kintail members met the Skye team soon after they had got out of Coire a Tairneilear and were soon joined by members of the RAF MRT from Lossiemouth.
The casualty was met at the roadside by an ambulance shortly after 10pm.”

Great co – operation by all the teams with a successful outcome and very little said in the media. A huge well done to all concerned and hopefully the casualty is on the way to a successful  recovery.

Heavy’s winter tips – Head – Torch and batteries.

Winter time means shortage of daylight from now on and with the clocks going back there is less time available on the hill in day light and watch how many get caught out. A head torch is essential for winter walking as is spare batteries and checking your equipment every time you go out. It is easy to get caught out and without light you can have big problems. There are so many head – torches available just now so ensure you have one  that works. A phone has very limited use as a torch and will drain the batteries quickly. I carry two one as a spare they are light and cheap. It makes sense and could save you in the end. It is also worth walking in the dark and seeing how different it is, to me it is a skill in its own. Everything is slower, even walking by  torch-light, navigating the map and compass is harder to see and it all takes a lot more time, this is worth a practice in a safe place.

Navigation at night impossible without a serviceable head. Have you got yours torch.

Navigation at night impossible without a serviceable head. Have you got yours torch.

Well worth thinking about?

A bit more – From Tilly lamps to head – torches.

It is hard to believe that on one of my early call outs in 1974 in March on Ben Nevis I was on a tragic search at night for a young couple who had wandered into 5 finger Gully on Ben Nevis. I was given a tilly to search with and was in the Gully when a then well-known Lochaber Team Member Willie Anderson who saw it took it off me as I was really struggling on the steep ground, took it off me and threw it away. I was worried about how I would explain that to my Team Leader? I have been there on several other occasions in 5 finger Gully and never found it and apologise for leaving litter on the hill. I wonder what future Mountaineering archaeologists will make of a Tilly in 5 finger gully.  After that I purchased a decent head torch as the issue one was pretty poor. In Mountain Rescue you do a lot of Rescues and train at night a head torch is essential and there have been a few disasters on this piece of gear over the years. At RAF Valley in North Wales during a time when money was tight late 70’s MOD in its wisdom bought cheap batteries for our head torches that fell apart on a night rescue high on the Idwal Slabs. I was the Deputy Team Leader at the time and sent of a powerful signal to the powers that be about the procurement of such rubbish. That was the last signal I was to send for a time as it ruffled so many in the Supply Branch at the time but we got descent batteries after that.   The marvellous improvement in head torches and lighting for personal and Rescue use is incredible. Tales of climbers climbing in a wild winter night with a torch in their teeth as they climbed some of the big routes in the ebbing light and moonlight are legend.

Tilly Lamp

Tilly Lamp

After seeing the recent pictures of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team on call outs this winter with their powerful headlights is a huge improvement from the early days. Each rescuer is in their own world of snow and a pool of light it is surreal and impressive. I try to keep up with all the changes and the costs of some of these head torches are incredible some are over £300. I have tried so many the famous “Sharks Eye” with 6  heavy batteries that lasted about 2 hours was incredible but it was hand-held and not much use when searching very steep ground.  We also did some test with Hamish MacIness  and a huge Military Searchlight in Glencoe millions of Candle power how many remember that night?

A head torch is a vital addition to a winter hill bag and I always carry a spare so often I have had to give mine away to some poor or stupid person who does not carry one or has not checked it for some time and the batteries are flat. Always check your head torch and ensure it is working. Try walking at night and see how tricky it is, imagine that without one?

Get that torch sorted.


From the Mountain Heritage Collection. An invaluable source of information.

Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection

Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection

Fernand Petzl was a caver who had a desire to improve the equipment being used by himself and his pals in the 1920’s and 30’s. Along with a guy called Pierre Chevalier, he produced various items of innovative gear throughout the 50’s and 60’s. and in 1973 Produits Fernand Petzl produced their first mountaineering headlamp. Various forms of lanterns, torches, headlamps and the like had been around for centuries, but Petzl headlamps brought a certain sanity to moving around in the mountains at night.
Not quite sure how early, but the one we have here in the collection must be a fairly early one as it has an on/off switch predating the zoom version which appeared in 1981 ( twisting off the zoom facility incorporated the on/off switch)
This particular headlamp belonged to Mick Tighe and was used for many years in his Mountain Guiding Company, Nevis Guides.

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 Charity, Enviroment, Equipment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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