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April - Helicopter training

As a Mountain Rescue team we are on occasion tasked with working alongside the Coastguard Search and Rescue Helicopter to help locate and recover casualties. With helicopters being extremely complex machines, comprehensive training is required to ensure all team members are competent in the skills required to board the aircraft by winch or by foot and that they are aware of the dangers helicopers present. For this reason, at least once annually we train with the Coastguard Helicopter and its crew to make sure we're all prepared to work together when a real scenario calls for it.

On the 14th April 2018, AMRT assembled at the Derry Lodge MRT post ready for the arrival of Coastguard Helicopter 951. At around 0900 the sound of rotors slapped above and our radios crackled to life with the aircraft crew letting us know of their imminent arrival. We secured the landing site to keep the public safe, popped smoke for the crew to see the wind direction and then the aircraft landed on, ready to begin our training package. This started with a refresher of the aircraft stretcher, as it differs to that used by MRT's, followed by a team scenario in quickly but safely packaging a casualty on the stretcher overseen by the helicopter Winchman. Following on from this, the aircraft was started back up, got airborne into a hover and the crew began putting us through our paces being winched in and out as a pair with our kit and practising high line skills (used to stabilise a spin whilst being winched). On completion of this part of the exercise, the aircraft landed on and in three sepearate groups we boarded, strapped in and enjoyed the amazing scenery from above as we were ferried from Derry MRT post up to the Devil's Point. After the final group of team members disembarked the aircraft, it lifted off, raised its gear and gave us a flypast and a wave, leaving a smiley faced AMRT alone in the middle of the Cairngorms.

The use of a helicopter is extremely useful during training as it allows us to quickly access areas we would not train in often, due to the distances involved and the time taken go access. This exercise gave us the perfect afternoon to be able to explore the area around Cairn Toul as a team. The afternoon began with a trip to the summit of Cairn Toul whilst stopping en-route to view the various ridges leading up to the plateau, where we could potentially be called out to. Arriving at the summit, we practised rope techniques used in poor visibililty to ensure that the lead navigator of the group would not be lost through a cornice or over a ledge whilst navigating in a white out. Arriving at the designated navigation point, the team fitted crampons and descended from the summit of Cairn Toul, down to the Glen below where our next point of interest was the Garbh Coire Bothy. After familiarising ourselves with the area, we returned southbound down the Lairig Ghru, paying a visit to Corrour Bothy before continuing our return trip to the Derry MRT post, a debrief and home.

An extremely enjoyable training weekend with many useful and important skills re-practised.