The Effectiveness of the Glenmore Lodge Minimal Transceiver, Shovel and Probe Companion Rescue Training Derek Bain, Glenmore Lodge, Aviemore. PH22 1QU.
I read the article with great interest. It is in my mind so important that if you are present when an Avalanche happens you have an idea what to do as you will be the person who the rest of the survivors rely on. Time is imperative in any Avalanche for the survivors and it essential if you are a winter mountaineer, skier or walker that you have the skills to help.
It was very interesting to read the report and many of the ideas are the same skills/ ideas we did 25 years ago on the RAF Mountain Rescue winter courses run every year since 1954. This was when we had 35 – 40 RAF Mountain Rescue Team member’s on the Annual winter Course with all 6 RAF Teams sent pupils and instructors. It was a 14 day course based in the Cairngorms and Ben Nevis and a wonderful insight into winter mountaineering. The transceivers take a bit of getting used to using them and we took them on every call – out and training. I used to tell the troops that these may save a life yours one day so learn about them and treay them carefully. It is amazing that even basic probing and shovelling takes time to learn to ensure you are doing things the most effectively.
RAF Teams especially in Scotland ran winter skills weekend every year and the Southern teams had winter weekends in Scotland. The biggest problem as always was “skill fade” and every winter started with a complete shakedown a day on Avalanche skills. It was always very useful and everyone needed a big reminder and of course the many new Team member’s an introduction. It was always hard to work out how much time do we spend as there are so many other aspects of winter mountaineering to learn and refresh on.
As we were in the front line in many of the big Avalanche call – outs we had to be pretty up to date with techniques.skills practiced and of course Avalanche awareness. Things have moved on dramatically and the Scottish Mountain Rescue run several annual Avalanche Courses for various experience from Novice to Expert. It was incredible watching night training avalanche training and the confusion that can take place until you train effectively for an incident. In addition there are many who run Avalanche Awareness Courses and these are well worth going on. I would say essential!
I have done a lot of work on historic Avalanches in Scotland and have most of the information on the past 6o years. Yet we seem to learn little after each tragedy? The facts and reasons are hidden and after each tragic incident a wall of silence goes up and lessons learned are rarely put out to the public. I understand that there can be legal reasons after an incident and of course the privacy of the relatives must be taken into account. Yet there must be lessons learned after each tragedy that are hidden forever. In other countries Canada and the USA they learn from such tragedies yet we are so far behind this openness.
When I joined Mountain Rescue I was told in 1970 that Avalanches “rarely happen in Scotland” We know this is wrong thanks to the work of some great people in getting the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) now part of the Scottish winter scene. It is important that you watch the forecast and weather prior to any planned winter trip to the mountains.
Things move on and yet we still lose people most years in Avalanches. The tragedy is ongoing and we must improve our training, skills, awareness and knowledge to continue the great work by those whose footsteps we follow. This means an open approach to incidents and a sharing of knowledge. It is hard to believe that a few were against the Scottish Avalanche Service when it started all those years ago we have come a long way but so much still to do to learn from incidents and history. Please get Avalanche aware attend a course well worth the small price when you pay £200 – £300 for a pair of boots £ 400 for a set of axes. Check out the SAIS website and go out with an experienced person and learn the skills that may save your life.