Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team using stretcher to remove casualty to safety.
Everybody has their own ideas about what makes someone a hero and, of course I have tremendous respect for everyone doing difficult and often dangerous jobs in the armed forces and the main emergency services – police, firefighters, ambulance crews and coastguards.
They key word there, though, is ‘job’; they are being paid to do that, although that makes it no less dangerous and often they go above and beyond what duty demands.
Similarly, I am not wishing to underplay the importance of once in a lifetime acts of heroism by anybody faced with a difficult situation and attempting to save the day. Each such act, though, is very much a one-off.
The people who I admire and feel deserve greater recognition for their dedication, commitment and heroic actions in all sorts of often atrocious weather conditions are the members of our mountain rescue teams as well as the crews of the lifeboats that dot the shores of the UK.
These people are all volunteers. Climbers who have decided to help others and seafaring folk who have chosen to put other peoples’ lives first at sea.
Fairly close to where I currently live, there are two superbly run teams of mountain rescuers: Llanberis and Ogwen Valley. There are plenty more but I got to know some of the members of these over the last 20-plus years. In fact, so long has it been that the ones I knew have probably all retired by now.
Anyway, to cut a long story down a bit, Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, whose patch includes Snowdon itself, have just dealt with the busiest month in their long history. They were called out an amazing 34 times in August, with the most hectic day being Wednesday 12th. This involved responding to seven call-outs in just five hours. And as most rescues can take a few hours, they often had to have more than one rescue team out at the same time.
Chairman of the Llanberis team is Rob Johnson said: “More than half of the 34 incidents that we were called to in August were as a result of people being lost on the mountain. With a little preparation this is not necessary.
“People often treat Snowdon as a tourist destination, rather than a mountain, and this leads people into being poorly equipped for the conditions the mountain often presents. Having a map and a compass and the knowledge of how to use them costs very little but will massively add to the enjoyment of a mountain day and will take a great strain off volunteer rescue services.”
The problem seems to be that Snowdon has a railway linking Llanberis with the summit where, during the summer tourist season, the building is open and houses a café, bar, gift shop and other facilities. It is easy to see how people do get the ‘tourist attraction’ impression.
Actually, I must share this true story with you. Before I was diagnosed with MS and at a time I could still get around easily, I loved to go mountain walking. Well, this day I had walked up to the top of Snowdon and after getting my fill of great views in all directions (not possible when the clouds roll in), I decided to enjoy a cuppa before starting the descent. No sooner had I sat down in the café than a trainload of tourists arrived. One woman spotted a dog and said if she had known dogs were allowed, she’d have brought her beloved pet with her.
She was surprised and said, “Do people get lost up here then?” She had no idea how dangerous Snowdon and the other mountains are. “Madam, people die up here,” I replied.
Search and Rescue Dog ready for action.
♦ Finally, I am sad to report that all three of the Llanberis team vehicles were disabled during an attempted theft of their doors. The would-be thieves also cut through wiring in an attempt to disable the alarms.
Team vehicles with doors removed and wiring cut.
Police are investigating and the team is having to rely on neighbouring teams for vehicles as Llanberis team has been left unable to deploy team members or equipment.
Since posting about their loss on Facebook, the team has received a great level of support with many people asking how they can donate. If you would like to help these brave volunteers get back on the road, you can donate by visiting the donation page of the team’s website here: http://www.llanberismountainrescue.co.uk/donate
You can also donate via text, by sending a message to 70070 and writing: “LMRT14” followed by the amount you’d like to donate e.g. “£5” or “£10”. I know they would be thankful for any donation, however small.