A Year in the Life of the ‘Glen’ Mt. Rescue Team
By Hugh McLindon, PRO Glen of Imaal Red Cross MRT, Saturday January 1st 2011.
2010 has been truly a remarkable year. Like bookends at either end of the year we have experienced arctic conditions that haven’t been seen since 1963 or possibly 1947. Indeed December was the coldest Irish December ever recorded. Ironically, sandwiched in the middle was one of the loveliest summers for years.
From a mountain rescue point of view, we have had our busiest year ever with 66 callouts. No doubt the weather has played its role in this – the good summer weather encourages more people outdoors and the wild winter conditions causes more problems to anyone outdoors. 12 months ago, 2009 was our busiest year, and the trend is one that has been continuing pretty steadily since the inception of the team in 1983. During the 80’s we had perhaps 10 incidents a year, approx. 20-30 during the 90’s, and on average 50 incidents each year since 2000.
2010 has proved to be an intensely busy year not only for mountain rescue operations (over 60 incidents), but also because we began building our rescue base near Laragh. The fundraising has continued in parallel with the construction, and this has stretched available resources. The team is comprised wholly of volunteers, and managing a construction project, attending operations, training and organizing and participating in fundraising events is a lot to squeeze into your spare time!
The members of the rescue team deserve much credit in achieving so much over the year – Phase I of the Rescue Base was completed, the fundraising targets for this section were met and a record number of operations carried out. This, when the numbers of the team are at a low – in fact, to avoid too much pressure coming on the same people, we’ll be recruiting new members in the Springtime 2011.
Phase II of the Rescue Base construction will be more costly – of the order of €220k compared to €178k for Phase I. We have strong support from many parts of the community, particularly the hillwalking fraternity, and we are optimistic about the challenges ahead. An example of this support was evident on 20th November last when 300 people took part in our Moonlight Challenge – a night walk along 26km of the Wicklow Way ending at the Rescue Base. The organising committee for the Moonlight Challenge worked long and hard to ensure all went smoothly on the night. To their credit, the event ran like clockwork – congratulations to Aaron Byrne, Conny and Anouk O’Connell, Ann Fitzpatrick and other members, ex-members and friends of the Team who volunteered much time and energy before, during and afterwards.
It was the first real use of the Rescue Base, and I believe that all of the Glen Team got a real kick out of using this structure which will soon become our permanent home.
Clearly the winter conditions have caused problems – most often for motorists trying to cross the higher mountain passes. The numbers of people taking part in winter mountaineering and other winter sports seemed to be reduced, probably due to the difficulty of access. Some of the glens were pretty much cut off for several days during the worst of the conditions.
Searches and rescues are our staple diet – a common rescue would be evacuating a hillwalker by stretcher from the hillside following a leg injury. Even something like a wrist fracture can prevent a safe descent without assistance.
Searches can come in many forms, and the most difficult is where the person sought may have harmed themselves. We recorded one search this year that ended in a recovery, and our deepest sympathies go to the family concerned.
There were many other happy outcomes, where walkers often strayed from their path or bearing and got caught out in the failing light and a poor phone signal. Delighted smiles always greeted us when we found them on what was a very lonely hillside!
Most years see a few technical or cliff rescues where we need to use our specialist ropes skills. This year was busier in this regard with 7 dramatic cliff rescues as opposed to the normal 2 or 3. Perhaps it was the good summer weather or more time available, but the increase certainly justified the team’s recent investment in upgrading our technical skills. This can come to approx €600-€800 per member trained – again all collected through fundraising efforts of the team itself.
The Glen of Imaal Red Cross Mountain Rescue Team would like to thank all of those who have been of support throughout the year. It has been our toughest year to date, with many challenges still facing us. It is only with the support of all members of the community that the rescue team manages to achieve its aim of running a high-quality rescue service. Happy 2011, and safe travels through the hills!