A weekend in the life of a Mountain Rescuer

Chris Lloyd, with Tryfan in the distance. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountain Rescuer Chris Lloyd has been volunteering at the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Base in the Welsh county of Gwynedd since 1975, when he joined as a trainee. From Scout presentations to call outs to helicopter rides, here Chris gives us a snapshot of his work as volunteer mountain rescuer over the course of one busy weekend.

“Arrived at Ogwen Valley Base at about 08.00, followed by another two stalwart team members, to prepare a talk and tour for 30 young Scouts and their leaders from Wrexham.

At 09.00 the first damp and tired half of the Scout group arrive. They are sub-divided into smaller groups and are given talks by myself and my colleagues in the Operations Room, the Stores and finally in the Garage where, after a briefing on the safe use of stretchers, the Scouts practice carrying a loaded stretcher outside and to the back of the Base.

The second group of Scouts arrive about 90 minutes later and the talk/tour/exercise process is repeated whilst the first group venture out onto the Welsh hills. Once the second presentation is complete, my colleagues’ leave to continue their day whilst I stay at Base to complete routine maintenance on various items of kit. The second group of Scouts eat their lunch at Base before heading off at 13.00, leaving me free to continue with maintenance work.

At 14.00 the mobile phone in the Ops Room sounds. The message is a ‘Stand By’ for 4 young men who are disorientated high on the Glyder Fawr Mountain. By 14.30 this becomes an official ‘Call Out’ and team members are deployed to search for the men who we identify as being somewhere between Idwal Buttress and Idwal Stream.

As we climb up the footpath from the Idwal Slabs towards the Idwal Stream we spot the four, frightened young men. Luckily, the low cloud begins to lift and the men can finally make out the steep, loose descent route back to the main footpath. They descend successfully and are met by our rescue party.

The men, from London, although suitably clad for the scramble from Cwm Idwal up to Seniors Ridge, had lost sight of the footpath in poor visibility and were suddenly faced with a vertical wall. Luckily, a couple of rock climbers they encountered directed them to the steep, loose scree slope, which is where we met them.

After a debrief with the men to ascertain whether or not they are fit to continue their hike (they are) I return to Ogwen Base with my colleagues.

After a short time back at Base sorting out kit etc, I head home, arriving at my house in Glan Conwy at about 18:00 and looking forward to putting my feet up! Suddenly I receive an SMS message – a mixed party of six, from Birmingham, are stranded in a crag on the Main Cliff of Glyder Fawr, with darkness falling. I return to Base immediately and run to board the Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter that has been called with a couple of colleagues, which flies us up to the crag in question.

Fortunately, the cloud level rises sufficiently to permit the helicopter to winch four of us onto a grassy ledge about 20 metres above and to the west of the casualties. The helicopter hovers right next to the rock face and places us directly on to the grass ledge, before leaving us and returning to Caernarfon.

We quickly assemble rope systems that winch the four men and two women up to the grassy ledge from the gully floor. The party then traverse the ledge, clipped to a safety line, for about 75 metres until the ledge meets the screes. A couple of us escort the group down to Llyn Bochlwyd and on to Ogwen, leaving two mountain rescuers to de-rig the safety system and carry down the two 100 metre ropes and associated belay gear. The casualties are slow on the descent, which allows my colleagues to catch up with us.

By now it is 10pm and luckily a team Land Rover is waiting to drive us the last leg back to Base. After a debrief at the car park the men and women start their journey back to Birmingham whilst we return to Base for restorative tea and pizza. I arrive home just before midnight!

On Sunday morning at 09:00, before I have even sorted out my kit and re-packed my rucksack from the night before, I receive a Call Out – a woman has suffered a broken ankle on the North side of Moel Siabod.

Although cloud level is still low, miraculously, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter crew are able to winch the casualty aboard. A team member, who has gone directly to the casualty site, walks the casualty’s partner down the mountain whilst back at Base – and awaiting deployment instructions – two of us finally repack our kit from the previous evenings call out, and return home.”

I was introduced to Páramo several decades ago by others in Mountain Rescue. Their outer garments have provided good service despite the extremes of weather in Snowdonia. The garments are well designed, a good fit, functional and well made. In addition, they are easy to clean and re-proof with Nikwax. Further to that, the Páramo repair service is second to none. Invariably, after the Winter season, I send an item back for repair after encounters with snow and ice tools. Chris Lloyd, OVMRO

paramo.co.uk

ogwen-rescue.co.uk

mountain.rescue.org.uk

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