/ NEWS/ARTICLE: Mountain Rescue - The Truth
He has written an honest and thought provoking account of his time in the Llanberis rescue team, daring to speak out over the question of how teams are funded and the gruelling, and at times disturbing, work the team carries out.
UKC Article - Mountain Rescue - The Truth:
UKC NEWS ITEM: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/older.html?month=01&year=2009#n45559
Mountain rescue is about as noble a job as you can get. Unsellfish and voluntary. I would donate more if I could.
OUTRAGIOUS, but fantastic article... Iím sure there will be lots of comment and discussion both positive and negative, but it all needed saying. The one thing I would say is that we are all volunteers and with that we can walk away, leave and do mountain rescue no more. But we donít. The excitement, the environment, the self sufficiency of the rescuer is something that we crave and thrive on.
Excellent and brave words.
Whereas i don't entirely agree with everything Mark has said, it's a good article, the same standard as Mark's blogs.
I think that debate regarding MR in the UK is a good thing at times, it almost always descends into arguing about whether we should pay for rescue, and a general idea that MR should have some kind of remuneration. It doesn't really move things forward, but then i don't have the answer on how to make things better, so i'll shut up now :-)
Having helped raise some money for Mountain Rescue, I think the comparison with the RNLI is very telling. Basically, like it or not, MR needs to start working (and behaving) as a proper national voluntary organisation rather than a disparate collection of local teams.
National fund-raising for MR is a sensible and practical way forward regardless of whether MR receives any public money. Once teams accept the fully (which they don't seem to currently) then it would be a far easier to try and convince all of us (walkers, climbers and mountaineers) that we should all make a fixed annual donations as many thousands of sailors do to the RNLI.
An option for all BMC members (and even Ramblers Association members) to have an extra 10 pounds each added to their annual membership fee as an MR donation would be a superb idea, but currently unworkable as MR does not have a top-down funding structure.
Equally, if MR were better organised nationally, they would be in a better position to negotiate for direct fees/grants/support from the Police (or local/regional/national government) for their services.
At the same time, one of the great strengths of MR is that it doesn't have any 'staff', everyone is a volunteer unlike many big charities that now have highly paid chief executives and professional fund-raisers. Any changes need to be balanced against maintaining this great volunteer culture.
Fantastic article, and also and eye opener for me. I had no idea it worked like that. I definitely think they should be paid a professional salary as they do a very professional job as rescuers. I don't understand why the government doesn't pay them, they do in Spain as is a much poorer country. Maybe I'm missing something here.
They are in Catalunya and Aragon. I have a couple of friends working for the them. Fire Rescue is catalunya, very good living and everyone wants to be in (6000 applications for 20 vacancies last year) and in Aragon in run by Guardia Civil, also fully paid.
Might be different in Valencia, but if they work for the fire service they are paid, unless the do it in they spare time? Don't know
Excellent and telling article - certainly an eye opener for me.
I think Mark S has a point. I give to the RNLI annually since I (occasionally) sail; it's plain that RNLI are giving their all and you know when they are needed you will really be thankful they came.
A similar level of media exposure plus a more nationally organised set up would help this become reality.
I like the idea of funding via the BMC - again I pay my subs because I know they do sterling work and again, they know how to advertise that fact.
I believe in Norway, at least in some areas, it the local Red Cross branches that do wilderness rescue. In Finland I guess it would be the police who are responsible but I'm not actually sure if any of them have specific training in wilderness rescue. There are so few mountains here there any cliff rescue I'm sure would go to the fire brigade who would probably not know what to do!
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There will hopefully be some more knowledgeable posters who might be able to offer more of an insight into the details.
the national fund raising thing has a start at basecamp
but it has a way to go IMHO
Basecamp is just part of the moves I was refering to.
Caralyn R should be along at some point too...
I was considering joining the the Dartmoor Rescue Group but a look at the Call Out logs reminded me that, in the this area, the majority of jobs are carried out in a lowland areas looking for people who are confused, ill or suicidal.
Having spoken to other former members who felt unappreciated by the public who could not understand why the team could not react as quickly as 'other emergency services' and the sniping that came from the 'professionals' in the Police it seemed a rather less appealing option.
The RNLI analogy is a good one and also shows what is possible with a hierarchical management structure and a focused marketing and PR function.
precisely why things progress at a slower rate than you would expect. Time is our most valuable commodity which we normally spend out on the call outs/training for the job we do best - remember too that in comparison to RNLI MR is still a 'young' organisation
The Dartmoor Group model is an interesting one. I do idly wonder if combining different teams in the same area into a group, each one responsible for it's own area but regionally managed, would be a good 'first step' to a national system...
Nope, didn't involve us AFAIK. Fantastic effort by those involved though, from what i hear...
> The Dartmoor Group model is an interesting one. I do idly wonder if combining different teams in the same area into a group, each one responsible for it's own area but regionally managed, would be a good 'first step' to a national system...
Yes I like the Sections Idea too but isnt that essentially the same as the one we are operating now? Anyway thats for discussion at a later date because Ive got MR training tonight.
Yes and no. Some areas have a strong identity as a "group" of teams, where each team has as much of a profile as others. Some areas focus on the higher profile teams, and the existence of others isn't as well known.
But i'm not going to say much more, i don't want to be seen as speaking 'for' anybody etc, which i most certainly am not. :-)
Not a huge amount of money to quibble over but also the sad fact is that the majority of call outs are from people who are members of NO outdoors organisation but simply casual walkers who get unlucky or lack judgement.
I have no experience with Llanberis team, so canít comment about them or their circumstance specifically, nor can I comment other than from my MR experience from 5 or more years ago.
At that time, and I suspect it is still the case in some teams and among team individuals, almost all of my team mates had a distinct distaste toward any form of fee, levy, or tax, charged either to government, police, victim or otherwise.
Money from the police was even turned down if I remember on one occasion.
Also regarding the problem of post traumatic stress, I've been involved in similar grizzly scenes as you describe and suffered no mental after effects, although such incidents were not common as they would be in Llanberis.
I would think that anyone that does suffer is probably not suitable for MR, hospital, emergency type work? ( the trick seems to be to know that one day you will suffer ahead of time)
I also canít see how being remunerated or volunteered makes any difference in this respect, so am struggling to make a connection with this part of your article and the thrust of your argument about funding and structure? It is interesting to hear your story though, and again I am sorry to hear about the after affects.
The memories of the anguish(bereaved families, partners, terrible circumstances of a search or call out) of MR incidents do have a lasting effect for me, although it is limited and minor. Each person must make a decision about if MR or emergency work is for them, especially if it is at the frequency you describe. Again, I don't see how it makes much difference about the work is funded in this respect?
The support structures could(and I feel they were) in place despite the voluntarily capacity of the team.
Frustrating jobs with ungreatful punters, what can you do!?
The suggestion was always made that they should be left out on the hill till morning, and nothing bad would come of them! But the jobs were just so exciting(and well trained for) that you just could hold most members back! (but my experience wasn't twice a week admittedly)
A superb read, interesting, thought provoking and well written.
A thought provoking report which is pretty well balanced and considered.
Like many others, I'm not sure what the answer is but I do think that the present model has outgrown itself. A volunteer force was adequate and could cope ( most of the time) when the numbers going to the hills were much lower and IMO those venturing out tended to be better prepared. Even the RAF seems to be more constrained by budgetary considerations so that pillar of support is not quite the same as previously. Today, walking and climbing are really mass-participation 'sports'. As such, in a small densely populated island, being insured against such eventualities does not seem workable so some form of extra government aid seems the most desirable option although if MR got this it would need to be done similarly for RNLI etc.
Having assisted, many years ago, in an incident in which a team member was killed, I am acutely aware of the tremendous job done by all volunteers. Well done and thanks for all the hard work!!
That said, they have definitely organised their fund raising better than the MR teams. You are not surprised to turn up at an outdoor event of any type or even at a supermarket in the UK to see people collecting for the RNLI. This level of penetration can only be achieved by organisation at a national level - I have to the best of my recollection never seen anyone collecting for mountain rescue in Berkshire, whereas I have often seen RNLI people shaking their tins. I agree with everyone above who has said that fund raising for MR should be centrally organised.
I think the problem with PTSD and it's associated effects is that you don't know which job will affect you. Plenty of emergency services workers etc deal with traumatic incidents on a weekly basis for years, then a comparatively minor incident will push them over 'the edge'. The fact they suffered from after effects doesn't make them unsuitable for the job, it just means they are human. We are all subsceptible to the emotional and mental risks, it's just that the triggers are different for people.
I used to work in palliative care, and obviously was intimately involved with death. People who i had known for months, even years i was now preparing for collection by the funeral directors. I thought i could deal with death very well.
My first MR fatality was a young boy. Then i realised how each event affects you differently.
I'll wave as he flies over my house and does spot landings in the field behind me then!
A very interesting and good article as well as a vote of thanks to all the volunteers and professionals involved.
Without being political, I think it is worth bearing in mind that the funding arrangements are different between MRTs in England & Wales and those in Scotland. Unfortunately I dont think the MRTs as quite as well supported in England and Wales.
A small but important point. Is there and opportunity to shed light on this and learn fror either situation?
( Now to be frivolous on a serious subject. What about a situation where no rescues take place once the money has been used up? This has a certain appeal.... a busy year so all funds have gone by October.....that would focus the mind a bit when going out in November and December. Perhaps if LLanberis had no cash left, the relatively inexperienced and uncertain walker could go to the Lakes instead.!)
In my experience MR is an organisation which is held together by the enthusiasm and hard work it members. Its most important asset is its people who deserve all the praise/ reward they get, unfortunatly this is rare and they are generally undervalued.
MR is addressing issues and very slowly evolving and maturing at a national and regional level. However this is inevitably going to take time as the people who are driving these initiatives forward are volunteers, who have to put family and jobs first.
I think more open the debate the better, and the more likely mr is to move forward, which will inevitably address some of the issues raised.
Mr Debate... a very 21st century Mr. Men character!
Funding has been a contentious issue for many years, and until there is nobody available to mount a rescue, and fatalities are involved, then certainly the government will not take not a blind bit of notice. I know that most in MR & the mountaineering fraternity support the voluntary aspect to MR so that they have the final say in how it is run and administered but some help similar to Coastal Rescue is sorely required. We certainly don't want to see the very commercial approach now common in the Alps which would demand heavy insurance premiums for anyone contemplating even a short dog-walk without such cover, for fear of being landed with a massive rescue bill. But then again, would that not sort out the mobile phone problem overnight as anyone without such cover would make their own rescue arrangments. And anybody who is a member of a climbing club/BMC or similar organisation could be protected by inclusive insurance cover.
Having lived in Nant Peris for many years running a holiday let business, many visitors would ask/could not understand why I was not a member of the local Rescue Team especially with my climbing background. When I pointed out that most rescues happened not on fine sunny days (when we would all like to be out on the hill), but mostly late in the day when darkness approaches, the weather is doing the usual thing it does in these parts (torrential rain/driving winds), and carrying down a casualty in possibly 2 separate body-bags! They soon get a better picture of what is involved, and possibly put a few pence in the MR tin in the Vaynol.
No, I have tremendous respect for all those that give up their time to help others (even if they don't deserve this help) in this not always easy task.
In conclusion, I recall about 2 years ago, a climber on Crib y Dygsl summoned the MR on his mobile, demanding a chopper to pick him up as he had to speak at a 'Dinner' later that evening! (that from someone on the Llanberis Team).
My regards to Pete & Aled if they are still on the Team.
Very interesting article. Mark manages to "speak out" without ever being crass or remotely offensive.
If national funding is required then the challege is to provide this without sacrificing the flexible practical approach of each of the regional teams at the altar of accountability. A very difficult balance to strike especially given the autonomy of each of the teams and the personalities concerned who will not be used to reporting to anyone in any form. It's bound to cause some resentment. On top of this consider the auditing and forecasting required to apportion funding to each team.
To do this by number of (predicted) events might be a very blunt instrument. Snowdonia and Lakeland might prefer more equipment while Highland teams might wish for more vehicles given the areas concerned. Landrovers cost more than stretchers should the Highland teams have their funding weighted? Will the other teams feel aggrieved? Further if there is significant national funding to supplement local efforts should this be weighted depending on local revenue? Surely that removes the incentive for local fund-raising? This isn't simple stuff - I expect that you all get the idea?
Can anyone tell me if there is any over-arching constitution that all MRT's subscribe to or is this entirely up to each region? If there isn't already that level of agreement then I'd expect serious bunfights once reasonable sums of money are involved.
Teams on outlying areas still have members turning up for training once a week, have members dedicating vast amounts of personal time to the day to day running of a team, and get up at 0230 to go carry a Bell up a hill. They have fewer callouts, but still have high running costs. A lot of the marginal areas have mainly single pitch crags, so members of this forum are more likely to be in those areas i suspect....
I do not think this article is controversial in the slightest. It is a good, honest account of what goes on; I'm sure many just don't realise this work (although I image all if not most on this forum do).
Having seen close hand the result of some climbing accidents / suicides at climbing spots (the joy of Avon Gorge) I can identify with the comments; it can be hard and support is needed!
On the subject of the MRT consitutions can they decline to assist the police in a lowland missing persons search (for example)? If so does this depend upon other mountain callouts? Is this defined or entirely up to the discretion of the Team Leader? Given the the suggestion of over-work and under-resource for these volunteers it would be very interesting to know the framework for this.
Incidentally given the number of hand-holding callouts is there a mechanism for the MRT to get in touch with non-rescue-trained (or partially-rescue-trained) volunteers who are prepared to go out to help with cases where it is clear that no-one is injured or stuck on particularly difficult ground. A sort of 2 tier service provision. Obviously this would be backed up by the fully trained MR members where neccessary.
Or is this heresy!
Excellent read. Thank you.
Just a shame that 99% of those rescued wont ever see it.
That is a very thought-provoking and courageous artical.
My personal view is that although as far as hillwalking is concerned, experience reduces that chance of needing MR by at least an order of magnitude if not two, as a regular climber your risk of needing MR is actually far higher than that of 'casual walkers'. As you say, climbers make up a minority of call-outs but they make up an even smaller minority of the participants.
[Please don't read too much into these figures, they just illustrate my point in comparative terms.]
Llanberis team running costs 30K, 80 rescues - rounding up a fair bit and say that's 500 each rescue.
400,000 visitors to Snowdon - 80 rescues. So for a 'casual walker' who's on a trip to Snowdon there is a 1 in 5000 chance of needing MR. If a person only makes that one trip in a year then each 'casual walker' costs MR 10p/year.
As a rough guess, each year there are possibly 5,000 person climbing days undertaken in the Llanberis area and perhaps 5 rescues. Therefore a higher risk of 1 in 1000 of needing MR. For an active climber 20 days (10 weekends) out climbing in Llanberis pass (or similar risk areas) isn't unreasonable in a year. Your 'active climber' therefore costs MR £10/year.
Climbing accidents happen far more frequently than we'd like to think they do (as my 4 stitches in 2008 reminded me, again!) and I'm damn glad MR are there just in case. The chance I might have to call on them is relatively high after the accumulated risk of a lifetime of adventurous climbing is taken into account, so I feel I should 'pay my way' as best I can in terms of donations or fund raising.
> My personal view is that although as far as hillwalking is concerned, experience reduces that chance of needing MR by at least an order of magnitude if not two, as a regular climber your risk of needing MR is actually far higher than that of 'casual walkers'.
Your taking some pretty massive assumptions in your figures. At the end of the day, because you being a 'regular' doesnt mean your more likely to need MR. Casual walkers TEND to have far less experience than the average 'regular climber' as you put it. Funadmentally, thats what this comes down to... a strain on Mountain Rescue services.
Of course, and think this was your point; we are out there and inevitably will have an accident. BUT... and this is a big point if you actually read the article, having genuine accidents such as falling off a cliff or other events that are outside of your control or unexpected to the average mountaineer is COMPLETELY different to the 90% of cases caused by idiots who need their hand held to get home. These are the cases that Mark points out as a rewarding part of the job. These are the cases that involve climbers, who, like most of us, CONTRIBUTE to the mountain rescue wherever possible.
I hope you see the distinction.
Again... thanks Mark for a refreshingly candid look at a fascinating job. I think I speak for most UKC members when I say thank you for the work you have done and the continuing work of MR teams across the country. Perhaps this article alone will result in more UKC members contributing to MR services and hopefully the government will finally make a commitment to supporting the work you do.
I don't. I choose to climb, others choose to be 'idiots' on Snowdon.
The fact that there are 1000 times more idiots than there are climbers undeniably poses a large challenge to MR but both are equally valid (or equally invalid) choices.
It is a free country and I will defend peoples' rights to be 'idiots' on Snowdon or any other mountain most vigorously. Limiting or criticizing the actions of others with regards to 'risk' is a very slippery slope for climbers, mountaineers or MR teams to start upon.
My point is, in the few years I was in the service, we trained for rock rescue up at Kinder Downfall, we had dogs, we had medics, we had helicopter training, most of it never needed, but we were there if it was, and I wold say to TMM and others, if it is only likely to be stretcher carrying on Dartmoor, it is still an essential service and worthy of both monetary and practical support by any lover of wild places.
Reading the Bolton MR incident list would suggest the role of lowland MRT is in assisting the emergency services in road traffic accidents or in-town falls. It seems rediculous that volunteers are required for some of these call-outs, and strikes me that they are being abused by the police as a free incident support unit.
I would 100% support MRTs invoicing the public purse for man hours.
Agreed- almost all of us started out as numpties in one form or another and learnt through making mistakes.
What is a valid criticism is of those who have no inclination or desire to get themselves off the hill when they are able to- eg the idiots in the carpark complaining about the speed of rescue... The simple fact of being tired, or it being dark, for them, justifies calling the emergency services. These are the same idiots who dial 999 when they are short changed by a taxi driver or have the flu, and there is an argument for billing them.
Recently Arran MRT were called out to a pair on goatfell who set off very late at the dark end of the year and ran out of- yes you guessed it- daylight! Luckily they had a mobile phone so were able to sit down and await help.....! Before mobiles, maybe they would actually have got themselves down? Late, cold and tired, yes, but without sparking a huge rescue effort involving dozens of volunteers and a chopper. Or maybe they would have not gone up there in the first place? At what point did a mobile become an essential piece of safety kit, over and above a torch?
There have also been two further call outs to festive "chinese lanterns" which well meaning passers-by thought they were flares. One of these sparked a 24 hour search in horrendous conditions on one of the most dangerous parts of the ridge. I am incredulous that people don't think these things through before lighting them in a place like Arran. Aaargh!
I have good mates in AMRT and they are passionate about what they do and the service they provide walkers and climbers. They are slow to critcise, but usually put a safety message in the local press on the back of a call out.
On the flip side I recently had a long epic helping a friend with a badly sprained ankle off the hill. He could just about walk and rightly insisted in hobbling out. Took hours... No rescue needed. I work as an ML and if he had been a client I would have felt a heavy pressure to call the emergency services!
Incidently, the dogs and their handlers need funding too!
1) "ungrateful punters" - maybe this is a Snowdon problem. I can only remember a handful of people who were not very very grateful. Some admit to being very embarrassed, but ask for help as they got caught out by darkness etc. many more of the more "trivial" jobs in my area are talked off by mobile phone.
2) "dead people" - complaining that some people want to kill themselves whilst enjoying a place they loved and with a good view seems a little insensitive. Yes picking up dead people is often part of the job, but it is voluntary. People deal with death, both clean and messy, in different ways. If it is bothering you, I'd see what help is available and ask not to do any more. And before you ask, yes I have held the head of a dieing climber, and tried to remove a deceased caver from a cave with as much dignity as we could manage.
3) "funding" - tricky one this. Voluntary funding via a BMC levy would be great, but I love the free access to our hills and don't want to see National Park wardens at every access point asking for insurance or proof of BMC/RC membership. As far as I know the RNLI does not campaign for anyone wanting to use an inflatable dingy on the sea to have insurance. When fund-raising for MR in a city centre, you'll often get "where are the mountains then" or "i'll never need you", and yet the same people will probably happily put money in the RNLI can.
I did not join my MRT for the sex, the foreign travel and the adventure, and all our trainees are made very aware that fund-raising is part of the job.
Good honest stuff even if I disagree with some conclusions. However, the only bit that surpises me is about the repair outsourcing (which I thought you might not have printed given the habit of such companies to threaten legal action).
Mountain rescue is gruelling; the teams don't get given enough money by the public; they sometimes get treated like shit by those they rescue who with half a brain could have avoided a call out; any serious incident will likely give traumatic experiences, the worst can affect some team members for years if not life.
It's not only mountain rescue teams who help rescue climbers. As an example, Lynn and I have been involved in several rescues now where either the experience or equipment needs of the rescue teams caused them to ask us to stay (once at some risk to us, with helicopters flying close to a loose cliff above, adding to the usual dangers of being halfway up a problematic cliff with an accident victim in great pain; and with the whole rescue lasting 7 hours, well into a cold evening...no complaints though as the situation was complex and the victim got off safely and recovered).
On funding and national organisation. I think it should stay as volunteer based, mainly as most members tell me this. Any overarching bodies should be kept as far away from a medling government as possible. It might be beneficial to have an umbrella body to coordinate fundraising and ensure especially cash strapped teams get extra help; providing admin costs could be kept down. MR teams should have full free access to the trauma support enjoyed by paid emergency service staff from the same funding source (afterall they are only replacing say a policeman who is equally likely to have gained the same problems).
I think you missed my point entirely. Im not starting a debate about weather we should limit idiots or blame idiots or fight the good fight against idiots.
...Im saying, this entire problem is about strain on the MR teams is it not?? Climbers and Mountaineers are FAR more likely to give a considerable amount of money to the MR teams than the average 'idiot' who goes into the hills and needs their hand held to get back. So dont turn around and blame climbers for creating strain on the MR teams, and trying to use statistics to prove this fact when clearly things are a lot more complex than that.
If anything we reduce the strain on the MR because we give back.
One of the reasons I left a NW MRT was the fact that a lot of the time we were just being used as unpaid police dogs bodies, looking for people in urban areas. Potential suicides, kids that had walked out after a row, domestic disputes etc. It had nothing to do with mountain rescue.
It's all very well volunteering to put something back into your sport.It's another thing wandering around a council estate looking for a emotionally disturbed teenager.
Another reason I left was a lot of the time the police were actually calling out the fire brigade to carry out what should have been MRT tasks. In one instance three tourists were stuck in a ravine and required extracating via an abseil approach then winched back up. Would you believe it,the police actually used the fire brigade to rescue them.
Anyway...that was 15 years ago.It might have changed since but it was shambolic back then.
You have mail...
> If anything we reduce the strain on the MR because we give back.
I don't think that's true. A big strain must be being called out dealing with the physical and emotional stresses of it all and no amount of money can take away that strain totally.
The one thing I hate is the common view, you see it on here time and time again, that any call out must be a fault, we get the 'poorly equipped' 'inexperienced' comment all the time, regardless of if any facts are known. Someone off here got rescued and they admitted to being embarrassed to call for help.
The other day I was having a think about this and many friends/aquaintences I have in Snowdonia have been rescued at some point, and all of them are huely more experienced and skilled than I am, in fact I'm fairly sure one of the images Mark used was a mate lifted off last year and he did nothing different to me that day we were side by side for over an hour but the heat/humidity just got him.
We can raise the money, sure it helps, but we also haev to accept that any time we step out we are a potential rescue, no matter how skilled. The more people on the hill the more rescues. I don't think that's a reason to not go out though, or encourage more out.
> One of the reasons I left a NW MRT was the fact that a lot of the time we were just being used as unpaid police dogs bodies, looking for people in urban areas. Potential suicides, kids that had walked out after a row, domestic disputes etc. It had nothing to do with mountain rescue.
And you think that is a bad thing to support?
> And you think that is a bad thing to support?>>>
Yes if it goes under the guise of mountain rescue. Why not organise volunteer urban search teams to work alongside the police ?
Agreed my post didn't convey what I meant. Firstly, the police should have incident support units that can deal with these 'non-mountain' problems. Secondly invoicing would be fund raising for the MRT in lieu of money saved by police. MRT should be exaclty that: expertise in a hostile environment not assisting people who have fallen down stairs in a nursing home.
They have them in some lowland areas now as ALSAR. IMO it would be superfluous to have two teams in one area because it happens to have hilly bits and flat bits. The lowland teams would only be able to go to certain areas, and the 'upland' team would have to then take over, meaning two teams on most jobs.
> MRT should be exaclty that: expertise in a hostile environment .
Would you extend that to flooding/swiftw*ter? By hostile are you including uplands/moorlands
Offwidth raises an excellent point. Often passing walkers/mountineers take control of the initial situation and make the whole rescue a lot more straight forward. Without their help and experience (knowing where they are, sheltering the cas and often proving care for the first hour or two until a team arrives) the whole situation could be a lot worse. These people rarely get access to the couciling services offered by most police forces to MR teams. They also get a feel for what is involved and sometimes go on to join teams.
Thanks to all the good samritans whose philosophy is not that differnt from the MR team member.
The whole ethos of MR is walkers/mountaineers helping walkers and mounatineers. The origional MR POST concept was a collection of equipment that could be used by a rapidly gathered possey to effect a rescue. From this most teams grew to be organised and well trained.
I think Mark would do well to disassociate Llanberis MRT in all respects other than as a backdrop to his personal musings. While I understand that Mark has every right to share his experiences, I don't think the focus of his commentary will serve the greater good of the Llanberis team, nor do I think he's in any way representative of the vast majority of MR members on the ground....let alone his own team. I stand to be corrected of course, by an official spokesperson/officer from Llanberis MRT alone.
To be honest, I read Marks article from my perspective as an experienced and serving mountain rescuer, and really only saw the same old arguments wrapped up in some rather disrespectful and at times almost bitter commentary. To put this in context, Mark appears largely interested in expressing the personal cost to himself in terms of time and money, PTSD and so forth, instead of displaying an over-riding focus on serving the casualty and mountaineering public at large.
It's a shame that so many individual MR members who sound off in public do so from the perspective of the persecuted volunteer. My apologies if this offends, but I've grown tired of it to be honest.
Suggestions of charging for the recovery of bodies are offensive in the extreme, Mark. I'd like to remind all readers on UKC's forums that while many of us are Mountain Rescue members, we're first and foremost walkers, climbers and mountaineers. Never will it be acceptable to me or the majority of those in MR to see the family of a deceased mountaineer foot a bill for the recovery of the deceased remains. Likewise, never will it be acceptable to me to be paid for the time I spend in serving the mountaineering community.
Without wishing to labour the obvious, we are by our nature somewhat selfless people, ever willing to assist those in need, to embody that hope an injured climber or lost walker may need, to extend a helping hand, or assist with a dignified recovery of a loved one. It's who we are, simple as that. Mark is in the minority even inferring this is an issue for most of us.
Mark's public outpouring in this article provides food for thought, certainly in some respects, but his disrespectful references to the dead are very hard to swallow as a rescuer:
"As a volunteer, I find it hard to justify body recovery as a free service when an undertaker would charge for the transportation of body from a house to their morgue - and they don't have the joys of an hour or more carrying a stretcher down a mountain that takes upwards of 12 people for it to be anything other than a complete struggle."
These are the cold hard facts of working in MR, Mark. You either accept that it's the nature of the work you've VOLUNTEERED to do, or you move on.
Similarly Mark, I can understand your personal anger surrounding Michael Todd's suicide, but you're in the minority if this is the abiding feeling you will take away from such an incident. To my mind, he was a troubled man who ended his life in a tragic and very sad manner, nothing more. Even now, my thoughts would only be for his family.....
Would you have your colleagues in Llanberis send a bill for the recovery? Would you treat them with less respect than the family of a fallen climber?
I think you should carefully examine your motivation for writing what you have here, and more importantly, what your motivation is for remaining with Llanberis MRT. I certainly will.
I suppose the worry is that if Mark's views are prevalent or becoming more widespread and he and others quit, the service will struggle to survive in the present form. Also, it will become more difficult to recruit new members.
Effectively, there may just be a limit as to how much time and effort people feel they can contribute as volunteers.
I have found myself in Snowdonia with an injury that needed attention. I wouldn't have dreamed of calling for help until I had exhausted all my other options. I got back down, albeit slowly, but I'm thankful that MR were there if I REALLY needed them.
Perhaps notices spelling out the fact that people are expected to get themselves down, MR are voluntary, a helicopter will not come for you, maybe even the possibility of invoicing for unecessary callouts. These notices could be on prominent display at various popular access points - Pen-y-Pas carpark, Ogwen cottage, Bottom of Tryfan, the road up the Llanberis path etc...
> dirty laundry and criticisms of the system and its funding in public,
> without necessarily having any brief or approval to do so? I'm afraid I
> see that as being the case."
One needs 'approval' to 'criticise .. in public'? I have no wish to live in a society that thinks that is true.
I have been involved in other organisations where this has been attempted and it speaks of more deep seated issues. FWIW I took the original article as clearly a personal viewpoint.
Rob (Not MR at all ..)
An open and honest bit of writing, showing us your thoughts and feelings ...I was with you on the first rescue you describe, it was a bit of a baptism of fire for you, your first winch off a helo, I had to tell you to keep your arms down lest you slip out the strop! and then on to the scene of a fatal fall, been there and had the dreams,flash backs, short temper PTSD after my first recovery on Tryfan a few years ago.
I guess after your Short time on an MRT you have found out that its not for you then mate??
Im not going to comment about your views, they are your own, its just a shame that you chose to air it of all places on UKC.
Catch you later
Mark H oggy MRT
I understand, believe me, I do. But if it's reached the point where all your energy and effort is consumed by the downside, and what you project is negative as a consequence, it's time to make a change before you drag everyone else down with you.
It's not that things will never get better, it's simply that they'll never get better just complaining about it. All you'll do is burn yourself out and become disillusioned. I fear that's what's happened with Mark, and it's unfortunate that he's seen fit to overflow here on UKC instead of addressing the concerns to those on his team who are best placed to help him focus and work through the problems.
There's nothing wrong with sharing the experience of course, but problems are best discussed with those who can actually do something about it. If all Mark has to focus on here on UKC or outside his team is the negative aspects (because there's no doubt it's big enough part of MR activity), then I fear the focus will be misplaced.
For me, I know what I do makes a difference to those who survive an accident, or those who are left behind. That's good enough for me to keep going and keep doing what we must do. I'd rather inspire the climbing/mountaineering community to step in and support their teams rather than just regurgitating the age old 'issues', which to me are largely little more than distractions from what we're all about.
Focus on casualties first and foremost, and forget about the politics and money if it's a source of frustration. There are very capable personnel in MR who are of the disposition most suitable to getting results in these areas. Leave it to them if it's taking ones focus and energy away from what you CAN do as a rescuer.
> Also regarding the problem of post traumatic stress, I've been involved in similar grizzly scenes as you describe and suffered no mental after effects, although such incidents were not common as they would be in Llanberis.
> I would think that anyone that does suffer is probably not suitable for MR, hospital, emergency type work? ( the trick seems to be to know that one day you will suffer ahead of time)
I am sure others have already responded to this, but I think you are dead wrong in this assertion. I know someone who is an A and E medic and MR team member who has suffered post-traumatic stress. It appears to hit you randomly even after loads of experience of similar situations. You cannot predict when or if you will suffer. Maybe if you had been on the team for 5 more years it may have happened to you, maybe not.
Not at all Rob - I'd just like to see Mark clearly draw a line between personal commentary/observations/opinion, and his referenced membership in Llanberis MRT.
By all means, write or say what you will, but let people know from whence you speak. A team member may only speak for themselves, surely. To do otherwise can have consequences that impact on more than the individual, and that's hardly right or right, considering the many people who contribute to the greater identity a team would maintain.
The same can be said of any organisation - Professional or voluntary.
We do run regular news reports on Mountain Rescue with links to
Two examples from many:
Dec 31: Snowdon - 17 People Rescued Since Christmas
by Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC
Nov 5: UKC/OMM/FRA Mountain Rescue Donations approach £10,000
by Rob Stone
Mick why make this reply to me? I have not mentioned anything about the editorial content regarding UKMRT on UKC..
The quote you have taken is my response to Mark.
Want to get across that UKC can be a place to offer support to Mountain Rescue.
If Mark Reeves is feeling disillusioned with the concept of mountain rescue as it is structured in the UK then I sympathise with him. The MR teams have always attracted a strange breed of mountaineer from selfless committed outdoor activists who genuinely do want to put something back into the sport,to over grown boy scouts.The infamous Andrew Moorhouses of this world who think being in a MR team makes him action man !
My experience is that some teams are over run with these sad pricks. The real tragedy is when one of them attains a position of influence in the team. Gets his stripes as it were and becomes an unbearable little bureaucrat ! Have we seen any on here thus far...possibly !
I actually think MR teams should be publicly funded professional teams in the future. After all. If someone gets knocked down by a car the state sends its ambulance service. Why should it not send its MR team ?
Please explain not head about this person Google throws up many people with this name ... no Wikipedia page yet ...
been looking some more and found this link .... http://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=524.0;wap2
I've heard some of those phrases before .... quite haunting ...
I believe Mark was more interested seeing MR receive government funding and not individuals footing the bill. I could be wrong though.
> been looking some more and found this link .... http://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=524.0;wap2
> I've heard some of those phrases before .... quite haunting ...>>>
The caving link tells it about right. Wish his website was still up !
> I believe Mark was more interested seeing MR receive government funding and not individuals footing the bill. I could be wrong though.
That was a sobering read. I've enjoyed the use of the Welsh hills for many years, although unfortunately I don't live in the UK anymore so my hiking days there are over.
Is there a charity that I can donate to, in aid of mountain rescue?
I specify charity in the hope that some of my former tax makes it's way back to you guys.
That was a very interesting and moving article.
In my opinion a fairly honest, personal account of his experiences and grieviances with working in MR, obviously a topic like this will always stir things up on a forum such as this.
I've always found the Users to be well informed, well educated and objective and have been engrossed reading through the replies, however, (and I speak through genuine curiousity as I admit I don't know all/any of the facts....)
Why can't the MRT Teams of England and Wales follow (at least in part) the structural organisation of the Scottish MRT's who I believe do receive a degree of funding direct from Government?
I know that the Scottish teams still do a hell of a lot of fundraising (Particularly in The Clachaig/Kingshouse where I always give generously;) )but you very rarely hear the same degree of commotion when the issue is raised for more money?
I will reiterate that I am ignorant to a degree about the politics involved in the situation but there must be something that England and Wales can take from the organisation of some of the countries oldest, and most frequently tested MR teams????
I can see your point but I can't help thinking of the NHS vs the American private health system.
The whole point of the NHS is that it is free at the point of access.
What happens if a very experience mountaineer who thinks he can handle the mountains trips and breaks a leg with no insurance. Do we just leave him there because he has no insurance? Surely not. But then what is the incentive to get insurance? Maybe hit him with a huge bill afterwards but if the service is voluntary what is there to charge? Again, where is the incentive to get insurance?
The only difference in the analogy is that the NHS has billions of pounds pumped into every year by government (only a small difference!).
SO: imo MR teams should receive funding from government to be spent on equipment/training. However keep the service voluntary to preserve the ethos.
Except for that pesky failing economy lol
What is the deal in places like France? If you are a French citizen, do you get rescued for free? It has always been my understanding that if you climb in France, you would be a fool not to have insurance.
In reply to others who think that mobile phones are responsible for increasing numbers of call-outs: take a look at these facts:
http://www.mrcofs.org/media/download_gallery/Incident%20Report.pdf Figure 1 shows the annual number of incidents in Scotland, with the note that England and Wales follow a similar pattern. This shows a big rise in incidents in the late '80s early 90's and a level plateau since then.
However, the big rise in mobile phone subscribers occured in 1999/2000 (see http://www.mobilemastinfo.com/information/history.htm ), during the period in which incident numbers are flat.
Whilst people undoubtably use their mobiles to call the rescue services, the rising number of mobile subscribers does NOT coincide with a rise in call-outs.
On the general topic on funding for MR, on 29 January, the BBC programme Question Time will be coming from Fort William. Worth trying to get the topic raised then?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/default.stm has details about how to apply to be in the audience.
> On the general topic on funding for MR, on 29 January, the BBC programme Question Time will be coming from Fort William. Worth trying to get the topic raised then?
not really as in Scotland (as has been said) there is some level of gov.
funding so i don't think it'd be discussed as readily
(as the question would be why isn't E+W the same as S)
One for others to consider, but there's an opportunity there if they want to use it.
A very interesting and well expressed article, particularly the reference to the stress of body recoveries. It does seem that this is an aspect that can put a lot of emotional strain on team members, we are all human beings and even though we try to suppress out emotions dealing with the aftermath of sudden and violent death is traumatic. In the 1960s I took part in a number of rescues including several fatalities. In those days local MR teams relied on volunteer man power assistance from climbers who were in the area when an accident occurred.
I remember one in particular which involved a young man killed rock climbing in the Cuillins, it was the first time I had seen a dead person. What was particularly touching was that about a week later his widowed mother came up to Skye for the funeral. She had no other relatives. When those of us who had been on the rescue learned this, those of us who were still on the island attended the funeral even though none of us knew him. It just seemed the least we could do.
The article is interesting, as are the responses. I speak for my team, but not necessarily every individual within it. We are a varied bunch, young middle aged and knocking on a bit, male and female, left and right wing, atheist and god fearing; in other words, people. We enjoy rescuing people but obviously wouldn't wish ill on anyone. We have support mechanisms in place when something nasty is witnesses. We have a massive file full of appreciative letters from casualties, many with donations. We rescue relatively few numpties, and when we do, we have plenty of time to make them aware of the error of their ways. We rescue both experienced and inexperienced. We share a joke with some, we console others. I am hugely proud of what we do, and the positive reactions we generate.
Should mountain rescuers be paid? I believe not. Should mountain rescue receive Government funding?..maybe, but with no strings.
At present each team has developed methods of working that suits its area and clientele. In Cumbria we enjoy a good relationship with the other emergency services, although I am aware that this isn't necessarily the case everywhere. We assist in non MR jobs when the weather is poor. How could we sit there with a garage full of 4WD and know that someone is suffering because a conventional ambulance can't reach them through the snow or flood water.
We have a dozen swiftw*ter rescue technicians. A useful skill on the hill as well as the riverbank.
Some of my most rewarding moments have been in dealing with the relatives of the deceased. So are some of my grimmest memories. I love being part of a team.
We have no funding crisis, no recruitment crisis. We are 'media savvy'. It would be negligent not to be!
We are little different from the Sunday League football coach, the staff in your local Oxfam shop, or Guide leaders. We give because we can. We are part of the great tradition in this country of volunteering. Our families are happy (mostly!) for us to be involved. My boss is happy..he's been rescued in Scotland and sees the value of what we do.
There is national MR fundraising, as has been pointed out. There is a national MR body. Locally and nationally MR is in a state of constant flux. It evolves and changes as the world changes. As long as it rescues people to satifactory standard, leave it be. We lead the way in the world in many ways. Our casualty care is of the highest standard. We are amatuers, in the truest sense of the word. (Translated from its French origin to the English "lover of", the term "amateur" reflects a voluntary motivation to work as a result of personal passion for a particular activity (wikipedia)). That may seem sentimental, but it the only sound reason to be involved. If a team member loses sight of this, it's time to move on and fill your life with something else.
Because it isn't driven by profit or shareholders, it doesn't need to be governed by anyone else. We can manage without Health & Safety legislation because when it comes to it, we all want to go home to our families. There will be no cost saving short-cuts.
If anyone needs a reminder of the effect MR can have, please have a look at this link http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/nov/22/family
On final note, I have to disagree with the comments about suicide. It is not a selfish act, it is the act of a very desperate person, driven by forces well beyond their control. They are victims, not at fault.
Have fun in the hills. May we never meet in my team capacity!
Nick Owen, Team Leader, Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team.
I still do not believe he knew what would happen, because in the state he must have been in at the time, he would not have been capable of rational thought. If he had been capable of rational thought, he wouldn't have been there.
It would seem that the majority of people, MRT members included, support the view that it should remain a free voluntary service. The idea that the mountaineering community takes care of its own has been around for a long time, and is highly valued.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that there are much greater pressure on teams these days, much of it because of idiots going out without proper gear, knowledge or preparation.
I think there should be a level of government support, if only to help with the proportion of the work which involves members of the "general public" rather than walkers and climbers. I also feel that where MRTs are called upon to assist other emergency services in non-mountaineering situations then they should be paid from the public purse. After all, the ambulance service is saving money if they don't have to provide their own 4WD vehicles, and the police are saving on manpower if the MRT helps with a search. However it is unrealistic to expect that any public money will come without strings attached.
This is not to say that individual MRT members should be paid, or that victims should have to pay to be rescued.
"Unlike you, I don't have first hand experience, and I am therefore perhaps best not qualified....
Sorry if that seems unsympathetic."
Yeah cheers for that, mate. Useful contribution.
At the back of his mind, he must have known what a fuss would be made.
I agree, but accessing the back of the mind, while in such a state, was probably not possible.
> If anyone needs a reminder of the effect MR can have, please have a look at this link http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/nov/22/family
Thanks for that link Nick, I found it very moving.
Thanks for that. A very effective description of the ethos of the MR movement, and well worth preserving. I hope the younger generation can understand it.
Haven't read the entire thread as I am sitting in bed feeling very ill, hence not on the hills!
As a professional instructor who spends his free time on the UK hills I wonder why a group of volunteers should 'under right' my paid work? looking at the cost of the 'red card' system in Franice I'd be very happy to pay a fee to cover my professional work, with non-payers who are using the MR resources to rescue paying clients covering the full cost of rescue. Instructor who are volounteers for voluntarly organisations could pay a lesser fee that reflects the 'average' voluntalry instructor spends less time on the hill.
This way the MR could get a funding source that is predicable and can be used as a stable base budget and 'joe public' still gets the MR cover with out the need to pay.
Like most of us I contribute via the tins and year books, I am just not sure why my work should be supported by volunters?
I pay car insurance so if i crash i can get my car replaced, I pay house insurance so if i have a fire i can replace my home. I'd be happy to pay a form of insurance to support the MR teams, as their work could be far more important to me one day, lives can't be replaced as easily as a car or a house.
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