What a difference a year makes. Training with Woodhead Mountain Rescue.

When I last wrote, I was joining Woodhead Mountain Rescue and looking forward to a year of training. In general, I think I seriously underestimated the commitment required. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely loving being part of the team. A year has now passed since I last made an entry on this blog. I wonder where the time goes. It has been a busy year, and the blogging had to take a back seat. If a picture paints a thousand words, here comes  a 50,000 word essay

Making sure kit is secure on the team Landrover

Learning our trade, trainees evacuating a casualty using the stretcher and wheel.

Darkness falls across the land….

Navigating at night needs a lot of practice

Become friends with high places

I found a new hobby, bouldering.

Warlow quarry, abseilling with another trainee in our free time

Yorkshire 3 peaks. Just for fun, I completed this 3 times this year

Realistic scenarios play an important role in training

No team members where harmed in he making of this blog 🙂

Briefing before deployment on a night exercise

In this scenario the walker had taken ill after a snake bite and was suffereing from anaphylaxis. The orange was given the adrenaline shot, not the casualty, it was just an exercise.

Holme moss, near the site of an old plane wreck

Joint exercise with Holme Valley MRT

Todays casualty, a stab vicim hidden in the woods

Working with SARDA

Scout loves to photo-bomb

Extra Nav practice for the trainees.

A free weekend, so I head up to Northumberland for the Cheviot Challenge.

Team Bonding weekend

In Snowdonia

We decided to climb Snowdon (of course)…

..via Crib Goch – So thats two ticks on the bucket list

Waiting for the Costguard to bring their S92 taxi 🙂

Just here will do

This one is for real, I only got a picture at the end, when the casualty had been safely transferred. This was a joint effort with HVMRT

A nice little waterfall near Black Hill

Spending my Birthday Money after a long wet, but fantastic weekend in Crowden

Safety cover for “Grin’n’Bear it” fell race

Two of our team ran at the back. They thought this might keep the runners running.

Navigating for SARDA above Haworth

Cake balancing after the search. (Don’t worry, She did get her treat)

A big night exercise in the pouring rain

Treating a casualty with deep burns from an exploded camp stove in this exercise. Long past midnight when we carry her off.

Stationed at Red Clough for the “trigger” fell race

Inspired, I take up running myself

Another fell race. This time its “Mickleden Straddle”. My section is dropped off in the snow for a short hike to Bull clough with lots of kit.

The latest callout. Head up above Langsett to assist a walker with a suspected broken ankle. When the call comes, you just go.

If you have got this far in the blog, you may be wondering what joining Mountain Rescue involves. You may evn be interested in joining yourself.

Training began straight away for myself and the three other new trainees, Andy, Damian and Mark. Monday nights are training with the whole team, either out on an exercise or back at base carrying out the monthly equipment check.

Wednesday nights are spent with a focus on trainee training, so the majority of the team is not with us. It is on Wednesdays that we can get a better grasp of the basics as Mark Pearce (the training officer) or one of his deputies schools us in one of the areas of mountain rescue.

Once a month, we train for a day at the weekend, usually a Sunday.

The areas we have covered in the last 12 months include:

Search techniques

from a hasty search along a given route to cover large areas quickly with a reasonable probability that you would find the missing person, to detailed area searches for more restricted areas with a high probabilitythat the person would be discovered if they are there.

Rope techniques

Rigging for rescue is somewhat different to setting up for a climb or an abseil. Static ropes capable of high loads, doubled up so there is always a backup. Hoisting stretchers up cragg sides, and a host of knots to learn.

Navigation

A good level of nav ability is expected before you join, but that doesn’t mean it can be forgotten. Regular practice and honing of technique is required using both traditional and electronic methods. Did I mention all our training is done in the dark as well as daylight?

First Aid

One of our first lessons was a course of basic  life support. CPR and general basic first aid. I found this fascinating, so decided to take it further and undertook the 9 week long Casualty Carer course. This is much more in depth and covers the first aid needed for rescue on the hills.

Helicopter

The S92 Coastguard helicopter showed up for training in September, and I got a new nickname 🙁 Do I really look like Boris Johnson? Time to loose some weight I think 🙂

Radio

Comms is of critical importance, so a lot of time is spent using and learning how to use the team radios. From the first nervous attempts in HQ where you shyly try and transmit some coordinates you quickly get the hang of what to say and when.

Water

Yes, mountain rescue is called on to undertake search and rescue near water sometimes. There are three levels of training commonly attained in the team. easily remembered as MOD1 MOD2 and MOD3. All the trainees passed MOD1 this year, and will be looking to undertake MOD2 in the near future.

Are you fit enough?

Now we have had team kit issued, we need to show we are fit enough to ‘go on the hill’

Not exceptional, you need to carry all your kit (about 15kg), food and water from iron gate to cut gate in 90 minutes. 6 km and 300m ascent. My time was 1:08, so a pass 🙂

One Wednesday evening, training at the Ambulance station in Penistone, a call came that someone had fallen in the local quarry. Our first shout, we were allowed to ride along.The man had been getting ready to abseil down the crag when it gave way beneath him and he surfed a 2 ton rock 30m down. He was treated as a serious injury, and rushed to hospital. Thankfully it turned out he was just a little bruised. Possibly one of the luckiest escapes I will ever see.

We have been out with ‘Scout’, Pauls SARDA dog trainee,

to learn how search and rescue dogs operate, and how to navigate for the handler. He is pictured here wearing his “doggles” which he wears during helicopter ops.

This training came in handy on a multi team callout. Over 100 searchers from 8 teams and the other emergency services were tasked with assisting Calder Valley MRT in the search for a missing 70 year old walker, lost overnight. I assigned to navigate for a SARDA dog. Eventually the man was found safe and well, apart from being very cold and scared. A very emotional day.

 

In February 2019, six new trainees joined Woodhead Mountain Rescue. They have all the above to look forward to. I have been assigned as mentor to one of them. It will be tough, and it will be wet and dirty. Most of all, it will bring them into the fold and make them part of a strong team that looks out for each other. I hope that in a years time they will be able to say they have got as much from the training as I have.

What next?

In about 4 weeks time, there will be a vote by the full team members to decide if the four 2018 trainees can be promoted to full team members. It is the most nervous I have been since I joined.

What does it cost?

Apart from the emotional cost, you have to consider the cost of time away from your family. Make sure they are onboard with this before you commit. I am lucky, Kate is very suportive.

The team supply some kit, it is limited, as all our funds come from donation, every penny counts.

Each team member is issued a Safety Hard Hat, Coat, Salopettes Hat and Base layer. The budget is about £80/person.Individually, you will need to supply the rest. Most you may already have. Boots, warm layers, Rucksack, Harness, etc. It can easily cost £500 in the first year, but good kit should last a while.

Woodhead Mountain Rescue

A few weeks ago, on the 15th Feb, I went to Woodhead Mountain Rescue for an informal interview with a view to joining the team. All seemed to go ok, and a few days later I received an invitation to be assessed for suitability.

Understandably, the assessment was postponed (several times) because of snow.

Yes, MRT do go out in the snow, but they go with a team they trust, not newbies they don’t know.

After the thaw, a date was set for the 8th March. So after packing my rucksack and making some sarnies, I had an early night. I was up early to be presented with a good 4 inches of snow, bugger. For the fourth time it looked like my hill assessment would be postponed, however…

An hour later than planned, we met up at a carpark by Flouch roundabout. Just getting here had been a traumatic event, with cars and vans strewn across the road at Hade Edge. I introduced myself to Ian, who will assess my navigation skills and fitness, and another Andy, who is also under the microscope.

 

Neither of us really knew what to expect as we geared up with waterproofs and fleeces.

Ian gave us three grid references to locate on the map, bloody hell I thought, they are a way off!

Our treck started pleasantly enough on snow covered woodland paths, very pleasant. It didn’t last, soon we were slip sliding down a slope and immediately heading back up the other side. Stop, take me to this point on the map, says Ian. No path, no obvious reference points. Counting paces to get to 300m, turn 90’, another 150m, x marks the spot. Give or take 10m we were there. That was the first of 8 locations to go to, all off the paths, and all buried in snow.

We located the spot where two river beds join

A snowy section through heather

Spot height located above Langsett res

Last grid reference, and the instruction “take me back to the start point”

All in all it took over 4 hours. Tired out, I still managed a grin when I learnt I had passed, (so did the other Andy. 😊)

Next step, training.

Why bother?, there are no mountains in Huddersfield.

The distinction of being a mountain or not really won’t be of any concern to you if you are on top of Bleaklow with an injury. You are not getting off without help. The team is also called upon to help during floods, to search for vulnerable children and adults, to assist the emergency services and a whole range of other tasks.

Training

Over the coming year I will be undertaking training in all aspects of Rescue work including Advanced First Aid, Rope Rescues, Radio procedures and Search systems. At some point during the year, (when I have sufficient knowledge) I will be made a part of the on call team, being available to respond at any time. I suspect that in the early days I will be mostly used for extra muscle.

I’ll keep you updated on what I am up to, watch this space 😉

Who are the Mountain Rescue Team?

Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) was formed in the early ’70s by the amalgamation of the Huddersfield Scout MRT, Stocksbridge Barugh Rovers and Sheffield Scout MRT that were formed after the 1964 Four Inns fatalities. The team primarily covers the North Eastern area of the Peak District, but can be called to assist in any area of the Peak National Park – especially during a major incident / search.

Two of the teams founder members are still active engaging in support roles within the team. The team is a member of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (P.D.M.R.O.).

P.D.M.R.O. was formed in 1964 following the death during the bad winter of 1963 of two climbers in an avalanche in Wilderness Gully, Chew Valley, and a multiple fatal accident during the 1964 Four Inns Walk. Prior to then there were few mountain rescue teams in the Peak District. These were uncoordinated and inadequately equipped.

The two tragedies in 1964 demonstrated the need for coordination of the few teams that did exist and the need to establish others. The P.D.M.R.O. was established to co-ordinate the activities of all the Mountain Rescue Teams in the Peak District and thus assist the Police with all mountain rescue incidents.

On average, Woodhead MRT is called out to 35 incidents annually. That equates to one every 10 days, but often comes in groups of 2 or 3 incidents straight after each other.

 

 

 

 

Pennine Way Day 2

“The sweet melody of the dawn chorus wakes me gently the next morning” / “I am rudely awakened by the raucous clamour of a million twittering sparrows at 0430” (delete as appropriate)

The hood of my sleeping bag is forced tightly over my ears so I can try and grab another hour of sleep. It is cold this morning as I crawl out into the world. Nothing remains of the pizza crust I left for the birds, and I make a mental note to offer food only after I have woken up in the future, but not now, the two pieces of pizza I have left make a cold but needed early breakfast. The tent next to mine has a dog, Arthur, he watches every bite jealously. Tough luck pooch, I am starving.

By 6:45 the tent is packed up and I am gingerly squeezing back into my size 9’s and squaring up to lump. Those 2 kgs I got rid of can’t have returned can they? This thing feels no lighter. I give myself a strict talking to, then promise myself a tea and a butty if I get on with it. I put my head down and head up hill, in 200yards I rejoin the Pennine way. Time for a rest.

I have a phone signal! I call Kate.

“How are you?”

“Doing Great!, No problem. Easy peasy this old Pennine Way” I lie convincingly.

“Liar, take care, miss you”

“Miss you too” I say, truthfully.

From this point, and for the rest of the day, I am back on home turf, though odly the home turf I recall isn’t quite this big. The map details Black Tor, Rakes Rocks, Oakenclough Brook and The Castles (I always thought these were called Laddow Rocks). With a day pack this route is not a major challenge, with lump it feels to be a ponderous nightmare. After several “stop and catch your breath” halts, I get to Oakenclough Brook, and stop to take on water. Without a care for its own safety, the bite valve for my camel takes a dive into oblivion over the edge of the cliff. “Heck!, I chunter to myself” / “Something stronger, I voice to the world” (delete as appropriate).

Lump is shrugged off and I make a daring rescue. Details will not be given, Kate will not be pleased with my exploits at this point! Unscathed I load lump back on and I plough on. If Snoopy is open, there is a bacon butty with my name on it. If snoopy is open, if snoopy is, if snoopy, snoopy is. It becomes a chant. The path to Black Hill never felt so long. A steady climb, but oh so long today. The sun is out and it is glorious. I’m getting very hot, and of course, without the bite guard the camel would uncomfortable to drink from, so that was worthwhile. Great views out over Lancashire.

At last, the trig point. Its a welcome site. I have been here often.

It is less than 2 miles to bacon butty heaven, call it 40 minutes then.

The descent is torture on knees and feet. I adopt yesterdays technique of using my poles like a walking frame for the lame. The first of two small rivers is crossed, and the steep slope dealt with. Rest. The second, forded. Rest. Up hill, ever up hill. It takes over 2 hours to get to the tea van. I have been walking 5 hours.

“Bacon, two eggs, popped please. and a tea”. My well rehearsed order is met with a smile and in next to no time I am handed the food of the God’s. With each glorious bite I close my eyes. I don’t gulp it down, each bite is a delicacy to be savoured.

I indulge myself with a second cuppa, and sit down. I give half an hour to a peaceful, relaxing lunch. No chance. An argument erupts, and I end up involved. Someone (southern by his accent) is spouting off about how “…the tea van should be nearer the Pennine way, which is 1/2 a mile in that direction” (he vaguely points down the road). It isn’t, we are on it, but he is determined. I show him the sign, not 20 yards away. “Well, they moved it since I was last here. ..and another thing…” At which point I decide I m going to move too, and off I go. Down to Wessenden Head Res.

Time for a rest

This time as well as lump, I remove boots and socks too. I pour water on my feet. They sizzle. New pair of socks and carefully replace my boots. Not a moment too soon. I am descended upon by “Jolyon”. Jolyon is a 56 year old whirlwind of a hiker, who is also “doing the Pennine Way”. We decide to walk together awhile.

Crikey! I know he has slowed his pace for me, but I am nearly running to keep up. Between gulps of air I have a good stab at holding a conversation, but as we head up to Wessenden moor I’m done for.We exchange details and he is away. Time for a rest.

In the distance I see Jolyon has found a new companion. Oddly, I seem to be catching up. As I get closer the pair split. One hares off, the other doesn’t. And so, I am able to catch up to Mary. Mary is not built for speed, she is built for being Jolly, and that she is by the bucket load. She asks me to pass her a water bottle from her pack pocket, and after taking a quick sip she stows it away in her ample bosom. After routing around in there for a while she produces a banana. A beam lights her face and she scoffs it in a mere 3 bites. The skin vanishes over a gully. I have no chance to comment. Mary is on day 3 of her trek, and her story pauses only briefly as we meet a family sunbathing. The sight of sun worshippers on the beach of Black Moss Reservoir stuns her to silence for the briefest of moments before launching into her tale again with a new audience. As the Pennine way joins up with the Standedge trail I let her go on ahead as I make a call to Kate.

“What would you say to having your husband at home for the night?”

” I suppose so”

Collection of one weary traveller arranged. Tonight is B&B 🙂

My bed, My breakfast

 

 

My Diary of the first day walking the Pennine Way. 

The coverage for phones is sketchy at best, so I gave up trying to blog after the first disastrous attempt, where all the photos vanished. Instead, I wrote a diary with pencil and paper. I will, over the next few days rewrite these diary entries onto the blog. Day 1 follows:

Continue reading My Diary of the first day walking the Pennine Way. 

All the gear! “no idea?”

Kit being worn, about 5 pounds

Just basics, Trousers, merino T, socks, hat, briefs. Adding a layer with a wool jumper if its cool, and a windproof top.

Also in the pic are gaiters, walking poles and Pack. Not shown are my boots.

This is the kit I am carrying on my trek. Total weight about 35 pounds.

I have seen reference to a “sleep system” which I find amusing, its my bed.

Continue reading All the gear! “no idea?”

How much is too much? Packing for the Pennine Way. Why am I even doing this?

Do we need more “stuff” as we get older? Is it just that as we accumulate more, those things become necessary? Whatever the reason, my pack is too heavy. I got around to having a trial pack last night. 45 pounds.

Based on this, I think that maybe I don’t need 3 pairs of spare trousers, 8 pairs of socks and food for 7 days. I can cope with 1 spare pair, and resupply food every other day. Or can I? What if ‘X’ and what if ‘Y’ ? I am starting to overthink this 🙁

I unpacked everything, and walked away. Time to look at my motivation for walking the Pennine Way and how I would like to walk it.

Continue reading How much is too much? Packing for the Pennine Way. Why am I even doing this?

Calderdale Way Day 4 – Unexpected Delight

This is a part of the Calderdale Way. Link to the Calderdale Way Page

 

Calderdale way Stone Chair to West Vale GPX

I was reluctant to walk this section. I looked at the map and saw very little to excite me, it is even on a different OS map to the rest of the Calderdale Way (288 The first 3 days were on OL21)

I was wrong, this is a very special section…

Continue reading Calderdale Way Day 4 – Unexpected Delight

Spirit of Kinder Day at Edale Village Hall

As I noted in Yesterday’s post, today in Edale, Ramblers and the general public were invited to celebrate “spirit of Kinder Day”, at the Village Hall.

I considered taking the train to Edale, but in the end I drove over, and got the last parking space. I was a mere 20 yards from the Village Hall, with 10 minutes to spare. I walked in to find every seat taken, and the audience spilling out of the door to the car park. I would say it was well attended. I carved out a small corner at the back of the hall and set up my camera. Much of the footage was backs of heads, as the crowds kept piling in, but hey, I tried.

The meeting began with a talk by National Trust boss Dame Helen Ghosh,

regarding the huge amount of work that has been undertaken with the restoration of Kinder Scout. Dame Helen said that she felt “very much at home” among today’s audience.

Following on, we were enthralled by Stephen Trotter, Director of the Wildlife Trusts, England, and former manager of the NT’s High Peak estate. One of the team who made the transformation happen. A transformation that involved the return of 40,000 sheep to their farmers, although this could have been just 2,000 sheep being continually recycled.

Our next speaker, Jon Stewart, General Manager of the National Trust in the Peak District, showed just how involved the National Trust is in this area, and how the future can be shaped for the benefit of the wider community. He mentioned how investment from Big Utility companies helps with the vision for a healthy and sustainable landscape.

Vanessa Griffiths, new Chief Executive of The Ramblers spoke with passion about the area.

The past came to life for me as she described the workers from Sheffield turning up on the 24th April 1932 for the violent clash of the mass trespass. She mentioned Tom Stevenson, first paid member of the Ramblers (also creator of the Pennine Way). Her 20 minute talk was fascinating, I may almost be tempted to join an activist organisation 🙂

Our last talk was by the President of the Ramblers, the charismatic Stuart Maconie. His talk today was amusing, yet thought provoking.

My favourite part of any gathering has to be a rousing chorus. I was not disappointed. Sally Goldsmith, a Sheffield lass, and folk singer, led us all through one of her own songs and then the finale with everyone joining in to sing “the Manchester Rambler”

Two last things I really must mention. The great job of hosting the event by Master of ceremonies, Rony Robinson. And the launch of a new book, “Clarion Call: Sheffield’s Access Pioneers” a copy of which we saw being presented to all the speakers by the author.

Kinder Scout Mass Trespass Anniversary

On Monday the 24th April it is the 85th Anniversary of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout.

To mark the anniversary, there is an event being held in Edale Town Hall on Saturday the 22nd April. “Spirit of Kinder” Day.

Start time is 2pm, and it is reported that the head of the  Ramblers will be a keynote speaker, along with the head of the National Trust and the Wildlife trust.

This mass march onto the Kinder plateau marked the beginning of a long campaign by The Ramblers’ Association, culminating in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, for which we should all be thankful.

It took 68 years to bring this about and have it set in law. It is therefore something everyone who walks the footpaths of England should be proud of.