Tonight I will be at the Fort William Mountain Festival and a part of the night will be celebrating the 50 th Anniversary of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. I have known the team since I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue in 1972 and met many of the characters over the years. The team has always been there as a bunch of climbers, local keepers ,doctors and Police assisting mountaineers in Lochaber. In the early days after the war with rise in people climbing and walking sadly more accidents happend. The SMC and local mountaineering club along with the only official Mountain Rescue teams the RAF after the war were involved in many spectacular rescues on the Ben and other mountains. In the early days Donald Duff the local doctor was along with many other local characters a huge part of the teams history.
From Ray Sefton Team member RAF MR and Team leader RAF Kinloss and RAF Leuchars MRT
“ I was around when Lochaber MRT was formed and I have participated with RAF Kinloss an Leuchars teams in many rescues with Lochaber MRT over the years. Please give them my congratulations on achieving their 50th anniversary. Over the years they have carried out so many great technical rescues and hundreds of mountain searches. As we all know many of the rescues are carried out in the most appalling weather. Let us hope that the next 50 years will be as successful as the last 50 years”.
My first involvement was struggling in winter in 5 finger gully at night with a tilly lamp until Wee Willie saw my plight and threw it away ( sorry environmentalists) I did many incidents in the Ben and other hills over the years and carried so many stretchers of the Ben. In those days before mobile phones, GPS and helicopters were an added luxury life was a muddy path up to the CIC hut or one of the remote corries. There was always great banter and trust between our teams and many became friends, married many of the local lassies and settled in the area joining the team in its early days.
I was there when the Sea King Crashed and the team were saved a tragedy and at the “Staying Alive party” a wild night. The old epic Ben Race where we ran out of stretchers, the river race and so many wild nights in the local pubs. The banter when carrying someone off the hill on the Ben and being out with some wonderful colourful characters. I have met many of the wives partners socially and heard there unsung tales. One wife in the 60’s whose neighbours thought her husband was a bad one when the Polis collected him in the middle of the night. These were the days when the Police collected the troops for call outs as only a few had phones. The awful snow track rides up to the CIC hut that usually broke down, the humour and banter. Briefings in the Police station occasionally sleeping in the cells and the odd drunk being arrested mid call out and now you have a superb centre and training facility that is a superb facility that took years of work.
Lochaber Mountain Rescue is not just about the team but those who support it. In Mountain Rescue we are so lucky we are supported by family and friends who without their love and care we could never do this at times difficult job. They sit and wait for us at home as we go out on these wild callouts and pray for our safe return. Few outside the Mountain Rescue Family can imagine their thoughts at times and the worry that many have. We at times miss so many birthdays, social events, parties and other important family events due to a callouts and it does at times effect relationships and especially our children. Yet finding someone alive and bringing them off the hill is an incredible experience that we have had the privilege to be part of.
The Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team continues to carry out its job in these wild mountains in a hugely professional way to many you are a great example on how to run a team with the Police and the locals working so well together. Your combined experience, in-depth training, skills and history have been hard-won and some great individuals have made huge influences over the years. The strength though is the team, the men, woman (and dogs) that make this such a special group to belong to. It is an amazing history you have you are unsung heroes all of you but even more so you are part of a unique Mountain Rescue Family. I wish you all much happiness in the future and stay safe. On behalf of the RAF Mountain Rescue and Scottish Mountain Rescue have a great night and a safe next 50 years.
PHOTO ABOVE RAF KINLOSS ON THE NEVIS BOGGIE CALL OUT 1957 WHEN THE TEAM AND LOCAL CLIMBERS DID MOST OF THE CALLOUT PHOTO KMRT ARCHIVES THE MAIN MAN RAY SEFTON IS ON THE FRONT.
Lochaber MRT – LMRT was set up in the late 1960s by local climbers to help fellow climbers in difficulty in the mountains of Lochaber and especially on Ben Nevis. The team was then, and is still today, staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. The current team membership stands at approximately forty men and women of various ages ranging from early twenties to early sixties.
Mountain rescue is about team work. All our team members undergo training to ensure they reach a high level of proficiency in general mountaineering, rescue and first aid skills. Our team also contains specialists in various fields including rope work, medical care, climbing and logistics.
All team members must be committed summer and winter mountain enthusiasts, with a love and knowledge of the hills, an ability to carry heavy loads on their back, and a desire to help those who find themselves requiring rescue in the outdoors.
What does LMRT do?
At the request of the police, LMRT attend incidents that are remote from the road side and/or where the normal emergency services are unable to operate. These rescues vary from climbers stuck on the sheer North Face of Ben Nevis, to canoeists stuck in inaccessible gorges.
We attend rescues day or night, 365 days of the year and in all weather conditions;
We cover Ben Nevis, a mountain enjoyed by a wide variety of visitors, from winter and summer climbers of all abilities, to first-time mountain walkers who may never climb another hill. The Mountain Path on Ben Nevis is used by 70000 – 100000 people a year and is in constant use by tourists, regular hill-walkers, runners, charity fundraisers, and descending climbers. It provides a steady stream of casualties suffering everything from minor sprains to serious and fatal injuries.
LMRT does not only help climbers and hill walkers, although this is the main group who are assisted. We will attend any incident where casualties are in a remote area or in an inaccessible location that requires rope-work to extricate them.
The number of incidents LMRT attends has been increasing year on year to the current level of between 80 and 100 rescues per year. Some of the larger searches, in areas such as Knoydart, may take many days at a time; with up to 100 personnel being involved including members of other rescue teams drafted in to help.
We also deploy team members to assist other mountain rescue teams and agencies when our assistance is requested.
Why do we do it?
All LMRT members are keen outdoor enthusiasts who understand that no matter how fit, experienced or well-equipped you are, things can always go wrong. We know that mountain rescue volunteers often provide the only chance of rescue for those lost, injured or stuck in remote or inaccessible locations. We gladly give our time to assisting others knowing that one day it might be our friends, family members or ourselves who require mountain rescue.
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Please help us save lives.
At present Lochaber MRT are involved in two searches on on Ben Nevis for a missing person and the other on Beinn a’ Chaorainn at Roybridge. It is a wonderful thought that the teams search on to bring closure for the families of the missing people. Thank you all.