As part of my photo project on Scottish mountain rescue, I was lucky enough to receive an invite to attend a helicopter training session between Oban Mountain Rescue Team and the Royal Navy’s HMS Gannet Search and Rescue Flight.
HMS Gannet’s Search and Rescue Flight crew are a key component of mountain rescue in Scotland, medically assisting people on the hill and transporting mountain rescue team members into places that would take them hours to walk or climb into. Based in Prestwick in Southwest Scotland, they provide search and rescue services for large parts of Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.
The SAR flight crew landed in Glen Lonan, still on-call, in one of HMS Gannet’s three Sea King helicopters. After a briefing by Lieutenant Angela Lewis and Petty Officer Aircrewman Shaun ‘Boogie’ Knights – which included advice on where not to stand in the helicopter in crampons (!) – the Oban MRT team members practiced the various skills they’d need in a rescue situation, including entering and exiting the aircraft on a winch and using a long line to transfer equipment between the craft and the ground. (Which I’ve no doubt is vastly easier on the flat ground of Glen Lonan on a pleasant Spring evening than it would be on the steep side of a mountain in a blizzard. Not sure that it’s better for photos though :-)
Watching the skills people have, I had a great time and say thanks again to Oban Mountain Rescue Team for the opportunity to be there. (A reminder, if needed, that all their team members volunteer for mountain rescue, on top of their full-time jobs. Donations are always welcome, see their website for more details).
Thanks also to the HMS Gannet Search and Rescue Flight crew. You can find out more about them at the Royal Navy website, including details of their monthly mission summaries.
I photograph a variety of outdoor activities such as hillwalking and backpacking, trekking, mountain biking and surfing, My aim is to capture high-quality images for the use of agencies, event organisers, athletes and outdoor clothing/equipment manufacturers worldwide. If I can help you, please do get in touch.
Day one of the Scottish Mountain Rescue Conference ended with a great meal and a boisterous ceilidh at Glenmore Lodge. Day Two was focused on workshops, with people joining expert-led sessions on, amongst other topics, ‘Casualty Care’, ’4×4 Winter Vehicle Recovery’ and SARLOC, a system for locating lost people using their mobile phones.
After an opening group session in the Glenmore Lodge lecture theatre, I joined attendees on National Training Officer Stuart Johnston’s ‘Hypothermia’ course. After a quick introduction from Stuart on what to expect from the day, we picked up our tickets for the Cairngorm Funicular Railway and headed for the hills.
Once in a quiet location away from the ski piste, the group went through various exercises demonstrating their skills on the different ways of dealing with hypothermic patients. The finale was a mock avalanche situation, with the group having to find the unfortunate victim (expertly played by Heather of Lomond MRT!) and manoeuvre her to a suitable place for an extracation by a Search and Rescue helicopter.
The photos below cover the avalanche scenario. (For transparency, note please I’ve joined them together with a picture from one of the other exercises and some helicopter shots I took on the lawn of Glenmore Lodge).
PS. If you work a search and rescue dog with SARDA or SARDA (SS) and would like to take part in my photo essay on Scottish Mountain Rescue services, I’d love to hear from you. All money raised goes to Oban MRT but I will give you copies of all pictures to keep.
You may recall I’ve made a commitment to volunteer photography services to Mountain Rescue in an attempt to raise money for Oban Mountain Rescue Team.
As a result, I received an invite to attend the 2012 Scottish Mountain Rescue Conference from the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland (MRCoS). Their kind gesture was designed to let me to find out more about national mountain rescue plus give me the opportunity to take more pictures for my photo essay.
The Scottish Mountain Rescue Conference is a two-day affair, this year held at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s national outdoor training centre, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The conference is well attended from the 27 volunteer Scottish Mountain Rescue teams plus the three Police and two RAF teams. I’ll emphasise the volunteer aspect of the majority of the teams as a great many people think they get paid to practice their skills and help people off the hills (often in horrendous weather) and this is not the case.
My plan for the conference was to hook up with Dave Cawthorn of Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team. Dave is a keen photographer who edits the MRCoS’s online magazine, Casbag. I was keen to learn more about mountain rescue from him as we covered a couple of the outdoor workshops – ‘Fixed Lines/Short Roping Casualties’ and ‘Winter Navigation/GPS’.
On Saturday, we took a gamble and headed into the popular winter climbing corrie, Coire an t-Sneachda, an hour before the workshops. Somewhere in that hour though, plans changed and Dave and I ended up in an almost empty corrie (the avalanche forecast putting the usual hordes of climbers off). Unable to contact anyone on the radio, Dave kindly agreed to stand in as a model for me and let me shoot a few different shots of him in front of Alladin’s Buttress. We then returned to the Cairngorm Ski Centre and rode the funicular up to near the summit. Strong, cold winds made the final ascent to Cairn Gorm more interesting than normal and my camera lens froze clear over with water ice! So all in all, no photos from any of the workshops but good company and education from Dave and it’s always nice to be out in the Cairngorms in winter.
(Part 2 – to follow soon – covers a more successful day at the Scottish Mountain Rescue Conference, with shots from a hypothermia workshop tutored by Stuart Johnston, well-respected Mountain Instructor and the MRCoS’s Training Officer).
It’s been almost a year since a friend and I suffered the embarrassment of Oban Mountain Rescue Team coming out to look for us after we were reported overdue on Beinn Sgulaird, a Munro in the West Highlands of Scotland.
This year, I’ve resolved to try and raise some money for the team to say thanks. What I have in mind is a photo essay documenting the men, women, dogs and machines that make up Scottish Mountain Rescue services. The objective being I sell the images as a set to the media and donate any money I make back to the team.
To help with this, Oban Mountain Rescue Team are kindly allowing me to attend their training sessions over the Winter season. I’ve been out with them twice so far; a few weeks ago on their local hill, Ben Cruachan, and last month near Crianlarich, when we had the company of Oban MRT’s search and rescue dog, Sky.
I’ve got my plans in place to shoot the rest of the essay over the Winter season so watch this space for more images coming soon.
Meet Sky, a search and rescue dog who with his handler, Stephen Austin, is a member of the Search and Rescue Dog Association (Southern Scotland). Both attend callouts with the Oban Mountain Rescue Team.