The JD Foundation is proud to support Search and Mountain Rescue teams across the UK, a volunteer led organisation that keeps us all safe outdoors. A few of the millets team were invited to spend the day with Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue to see how they operate.
“We’ve just received a call: two individuals, a 55 year old woman and a 61 year old man, have been reported missing.”
That was the brief given by ‘Control’ for the day’s incident, and it certainly was brief. Control was Pete, the Deputy Leader for the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team. We found Pete in the team’s mobile control base, a kitted out Iveco van with radio transmitters, computers, and maps from which he could plan and direct the incident search for the two individuals reported missing. The enormity of the task ahead soon became apparent, not least because Mother Nature was not on the team’s side.
Horizontal, driving rain and gale force winds swept the valley, transforming the undulating moorland surrounding Cow Green Reservoir and Cauldron Snout into a quagmire. Pete split the team into five smaller groups and directed each to cover a different search location. Equipped with radios, wet weather clothing and rucksacks the teams set off into the wind to find the two missing people.
A short time passed and more information filtered into Pete which he relayed to the team. “We have received word that the missing couple are regular walkers. They have walked along one side of Cow Green Reservoir and were exploring a ruined building near Meldon Hill when one has become injured. This means this is no longer a missing person operation.”
Meldon Hill is a grassy moorland to the west of Cow Green Reservoir. With Pete’s radio message acknowledged by each of the ground teams, he directed them towards Melon Hill and we followed.
As we climbed the long ascent to the top we heard across the radio “No Duff”.
“That means that something has happened; this is no longer a training exercise” noted Steve, Team Leader and our guide for the day. After a radio call he told us that one of the volunteer casualties had become unwell, suffering from suspected Hypothermia. It was unnerving to know that what had started out as an exercise had turned into a genuine life or death situation because of the poor weather conditions. All the teams became focussed on finding and bringing the casualty safely down the hill before they could continue with the training exercise. The professionalism of the team members was amazing to watch and they got the causality down safely.
The other casualty, a woman called Linda, had been found by Karen from the team and her search dog Sam, near the top of Meldon Hill. Medical provisions were called for and the teams began the long ascent back up to the top, carrying heavy medical equipment including a purpose-built stretcher which allowed the team to move an injured causality across rough terrain. The team’s doctor treated Linda for a suspected thigh bone injury while the rest of the team prepared the sledge and kept her as warm as possible; a challenge on the exposed top of Meldon Hill.
With no let up from the weather, and with the condition of the other casualty still fresh in their minds, the team knew that they needed to work quickly to get Linda down the hill as quickly and safely as possible. Linda was kept in an innovative sleeping bag filled with a hardening gel which would keep her body straight and help to minimise the chance of further injury. Splints also held her leg in place while she was carefully lifted onto the stretcher which resembled a sledge.
No sooner was Linda secured on the sledge than the team began the descent, working together as a team to maneuverer the sledge down the hill. From thick grass to muddy bogs, the team went above and beyond to keep Linda stable, safe and as comfortable as possible. Once safe at the base of the hill, the entire team completed treating Linda’s injuries and then made their way back to Control for a de-brief.
Mountain rescue team members are all volunteers, a humbling thought when you know that they are on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep us safe outdoors. That’s why the JD Foundation is proud to support Mountain Rescue team’s nationwide. And you can too. You can donate or even become a volunteer yourself. It just leaves us to say a huge thank you to the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue team for giving us a unique glimpse into the way that they operate. They make the outdoors a safer place for all of us.
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