Beyond first aid and beyond the snowline, they can splint shattered limbs, administer morphine and adrenalin, deliver oxygen, N2O and warmth that preserves the precious spark of life. This capability depends as much upon public support as it does the determination of these stalwart mountaineers.
” We’re not heroes,” John Whittle, Chairman of Penrith Mountain Rescue told us at Maulds Meaburn Village Institute on Wednesday evening, “In our game, herosim would kill us.” In the course of 90 gripping minutes, he delivered an impressive presentation about his group’s work that was as inspiring as it was densely factual and richly anecdotal. It is the combination of intelligent organisation, training, fitness, good equipment and hard resolve that gets these mountaineers to the sides of those who most need them, and that saves lives throughout the year in an average of 40 call-outs, in any weather, at any hour.
We learned that there are over 18 million visitors to Lakeland annually and of these, 11 million are drawn to the Fells. Divide this number by 365 and you’ve got a lot of walkers on the Fells and … sometimes, some of them get into difficulties. When that happens, lives depend on the professionalism and dogged determination of the 40 members of Penrith Mountain Rescue, 33 of them are trained paramedics. About a third are from Penrith itself, a third from surrounding villages and a third from Carlisle area.
At the charity’s fundraising talk we enjoyed a detailed and involving introduction to the rescue group and its extraordinary missions of mercy. Entirely composed of volunteers, Penrith Mountain Rescue have about 40 call-outs per year, on missions varying from organised searches for missing persons to rescues of injured climbers and sadly, the occasional recovery of fatalities. Last year the group conducted 13 rescues, 19 searches and an animal rescue with 1140 person hours devoted to their service.
Mr. Wittle is a teacher by profession and we found him an excellent public speaker, with good visual aids to support the talk including an impressive array of realia, including light tents, splints, warm jackets, heavy backpack of gas bottles, sledge and their formidable forward command centre cum ambulance!
Before 1959, doughty teams of YMCA would carry folk off the mountainsides on farm gates! These days the teams are far, far better trained and equipped. When you put your money in their collecting tins you’re contributing to and helping enable, a highly sophisticated and dedicated rescue service.
Book this man as guest speaker for a fundraiser at your village hall if you can, for informative and fascinating insights into the world of mountain rescue. You’ll learn about the deployment and training of staff and rescue dogs, important survival tips and amazing facts about rescues and the rescued. Learn the key factors that have made all the difference in real life and death survival scenarios, some myths busted, and some fascinating and memorable factoids about rescue and recovery. Many are startling, such as how many people carry compasses when fell walking and how many who do, can actually use them effectively*.
See Penrith Mountain Rescue website for more information about their valuable service and their mountain safety page for information about preparation for fell walking, what to take with you and what to do in the rare event of something going wrong. There’s some very good advice here, that will stand by you.
*If you are interested in navigation training there are a variety of local instructors who can deliver certified navigation training at beginner (Bronze) and intermediate (Silver) levels, one such is based in nearby Bolton, Mountain Leader, Malcolm Wade of Lakeland Mountain Experience. You may be interested to note that Malcolm will run NNAS Bronze and Silver Navigation courses on August 09-10 and Sept. 20-21 in 2013. He leads guided mountain walks and is a Fix the Fells Lengthsman.