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.


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.


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 🙂


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.


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.

One thought on “What a difference a year makes. Training with Woodhead Mountain Rescue.”

  1. A most interesting account. At my age of 79 it is a bit late to embark on something similar but in retrospect it is something I would consider if I had my time over again. I am lucky enough to be still sufficiently fit to trek twelve miles or so in the hills including rough terrain, and backpack down the country for two weeks. I did fall and break my arm in the wilds of Weardale a while back but managed to get myself to civilisation without the aid of MR but I applaud the effort sand commitment you are making.

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