Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

NEWS ROUND OCTOBER > DECEMBER Local and mainstream media were quick to pick up on Glossop’s ‘urgent plea’ after concerns that the Peak District has become a bigger draw to new visitors from Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and beyond, since Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions. NOVEMBER: GLOSSOP TEAM’S PLEA TO ‘INSTAGRAM HIKERS’ ATTRACTS WIDER MEDIA INTEREST

Above: Plane wreck at Higher Shelf Stones © Glossop MRT.

northern Lakes rather than closer to home near the southern coast! But accuracy in an emergency isn’t the only issue. In a best-case scenario, what3words gives someone their location in a form they can easily communicate. A grid reference would do the same thing and there are apps for that, of course, but what3words has captured the imagination and makes sense to the non-map reading public. It is, however, only useful in calling on someone for help — it’s no use whatsoever for navigation to find your own way and take responsibility for your own safety. To me, the MR position needs to be developed around this ‘location is not navigation’ message in the months to come and I’d be interested in your ideas on that. Teams across the country are already dealing with many of the above with patience and clear messaging and my apologies if I’ve only mentioned a small selection. We can all learn from best practice (and clear messages) so, if you’ve anything to add or recent experience to share, please get in touch via sally@ or through the MREW Facebook group. I hope to follow up on this column with more advice ahead of Mountain Rescue Awareness Day in October. Thank you. ✪

Their Facebook post came after a second search for walkers who were already at home, an increasingly familiar scenario for teams across the country, asking that ‘if you get into difficulty on the hills and call for assistance, but manage to find your own way down before help arrives, please call 101 and let us know you are safe’. In one case, dozens of team members and several search dogs, rushed to scour the well-known local landmark Higher Shelf Stones after receiving information about a walker in difficulty. As the night wore on, concerns grew and more team members were called in. When the team finally made phone contact with the missing party, it transpired that they were not only safe and well, but at home some distance away. ‘This has happened twice in recent weeks,’ explains Glossop team leader, Patch Haley. ‘We’re always glad to hear that people are safe, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep us informed. If people do make their own way down after they call emergency services for assistance, it’s vital they let us know via 101. My fear is that with higher volumes of walkers visiting the area during lockdown, more of these false alarms will leave our rescue team overstretched, and at risk of struggling to reach those who are genuinely in need of urgent assistance.’ The limitations on travel and overnight stays wrought during the year, and especially during lockdown periods, have made the Peak District a big draw for visitors from Greater Manchester and Yorkshire. Higher Shelf Stones in particular has found unlikely fame on Tik-Tok and Instagram, thanks to its eerie and photogenic landscape, where the natural beauty of the area contrasts with the wreckage of a crashed B29 Superfortress – which lead to two incidents in one three-hour period over one weekend – following quickly on from an incident the previous day near to Crowden. However, the elevation and inhospitable route to and from the crash site offers significant challenges for even the most experienced hikers. ‘Visitors should be aware that social media only tells them half the story,’ explained Patch. ‘Always check the weather before you set off. Conditions can change without warning at these elevations, and low cloud can reduce visibility drastically. It’s easy to get disorientated and wet, and that’s when hypothermia can set in. And remember to allow plenty of time to get back before sunset, as conditions underfoot will become claggy, and navigation nearly impossible. Make sure you bring food, water, a torch, and a map and compass. And be confident you can use them.’

DECEMBER: ANNUAL FIGURES REVEAL AN INTERESTING STORY The final stats are yet to be calculated but an initial review suggests it has been an interesting year for mountain rescue teams across England and Wales as the hill, reservoir and country park-going public took to their new ‘lockdown exercise’ routines. Overall, call-out numbers were remarkably consistent with 3080 in 2020 compared with 2973 in 2019, a relatively small increase of 107 (under 4%). But this national view hides a much more complicated story once the figures are broken down by region with incident numbers down for the usual hotspots of the Lakes and North Wales and up pretty much everywhere else. The first three months of 2020 saw a small increase in call-outs. The first lockdown saw a huge fall overall with 359 fewer incidents April to June with the Peak District unchanged at 123 call-outs. However, through summer and into autumn, call-outs generally increased by nearly 300, with Peak District teams called out over 170 times — an unprecedented level. Call-outs were up in the North East and South Wales too. We hope to have final figures ready for the MREW Annual Review.

Above: Upper Wharfedale FRA swiftwater-trained team members during a multi-agency response in December to assist a severely injured, hypothermic male kayaker stuck on the rocks in the river at Linton Falls © Sara Spillett.



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