As I was on the hills near Glenshee on New Years Day there was a bit of an epic starting in the Cairngorms two people and a dog never returned from a winter walk.They were staying locally and the Cairngorm Mountain RescueTeam were out as were a RAF Team, The Braemar Team and the SAR Helicopter and it was great news that all three missing were located safe after a wild night out. I was only on the hill about 20 miles away in the Southern Cairngorms and just above 800 metres. At times the weather was wild and when I heard there was a couple missing I feared the worse for them as the heavy winter showers were hard walking even for me at 800 metres.It was great news that they had been found alive after a night out in a bivy bag an essential that the Cairngorm Team Leader said saved their lives on a wild night in freezing conditions. It was a great result and I am so glad that all are safe and back with their families.
From the Cairngorm Facebook Page ”
First major search of the new year and the winter over the past two days.
Two persons were reported overdue early last night and the rescue initiated. Team members mobilised and searched in freezing condition into the early hours, along with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency SAR Helicopter based in Inverness. The missing persons were not found overnight and a full team search was initiated for for first light which included the SAR helicopter and RAF Mountain Rescue Team.
The search continued in very poor weather conditions which hampered flying, this resulted in most of the areas being covered on foot by MRT teams.
The missing persons were located in near zero visibility and helped back to the Cairngorm Ski Area car park.
A great turn out from our team members over the course of the rescue and thanks go to their family and colleagues to help them attend rescues at such short notice. Also a huge thanks to everyone who donates to the team to help us to continue our work.”
I would imagine that the Rescue Teams had a wild night searching but what a result for all involved as the time went on the families of those missing were located.
We must never take for granted what the Mountain Rescue Teams do and how they respond. Many gave up their New Years night to search a wild arctic Cairngorms and many of the teams missed out on what should be special family time to search for the missing walkers.
It is well worth remembering that the winter is with us and the mountains are now despite not a lot of snow in full winter conditions. Temperatures with wind chill can be below – 10 at 3000 feet add to a wind and deep snow in places, short daylight things can easily go wrong. Navigation in poor conditions is not easy and in wind blasted conditions snow goggles are an essential as is the proper gear. Gloves plus a spare pair are essential if you lose a glove with no spare this means trouble, you can do nothing with frozen hands. In winter in the mountains it is not winter walking but winter mountaineering and it is always worth leaving your route and your plans of where you are going with a friend or where you are staying. I would advise carrying a the usual head torch plus batteries, phone, spare battery but always a map and compass and a check the weather and avalanche forecast. The mountains can give great joy in winter but be careful and enjoy the winter with its varying weather, short daylight but incredible rewards of a day out. Can you cope with a night out or a long wait for help? Have look there is so much advice about it may save your life.
Bothy Bags / Bivy BagsWhen I started in Mountain Rescue in the early 70’s we had big Survival bags or group shelters made for the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams by the Safety Equipment Section on the Station. They were great and we used them often to have break on training or on a wild search we coould get together, have a break regroup and keep an eye on each other. They went out of vogue for a while and we all carried individual bags the basic Yellow /orange bag but I much prefer the group shelters bothy bags have been back for years and are a wonderful addition to each hill party. They are great on a rescue and just on a wild day when you can get a break out of the weather and get sorted out.
“Of course by getting into your bivy bag you will reduce the effect of wind, and create a slight rise in your micro climate, but sitting alone in a bivy bag with nothing else is a pretty grim affair. A bothy bag is cheaper, lighter and provides far more protection, both physically and psychologically and should be in the rucksack of every climber or walker in the UK (or stowed in a bum bag for rucksack-less multi pitch climbers). By grouping together you can share body heat, food, water and more importantly moral.”
Andy Kirkpatrick’s Doctor Gear: Bivy Bags vs. Bothy Bags http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=1163
Great words from Andy Kirkpatrick no less and he should know!
Maybe a must for your next buy if you do not have one? It may save your life?
You may want to donate to the great work done by the unpaid volunteers of the Mountain Rescue just check their websites to access their ways of donating.