Team Leader's Report 2014

“Alive and Kicking”

I write this year’s report post Team AGM where myself and the Hill leads have been re-elected so I am hoping for a slightly quieter year than the last, although early indications show that is unlikely. 2014 was a very busy year for the Team; it also saw the Team celebrate its 50th Birthday. This is an amazing achievement and testament to generation after generation of Mountain Rescuer who continue to give their time freely to train and help those in need on the hill.

I would like to thank the following; Team members for turning up week after week and quite often going the extra mile for the Team.  Our Association for their continuous support, fund-raising and for mucking in at events last year. The Order of St John for their support. The families, the support you provide your Mountain Rescuer is of extreme importance to them and to the rest of us. Finally, the legions of supporters that the Team have, who continue to help raise money in order to keep us operational. Thank you all.

“System Working Overtime”

With this being our anniversary year we wanted to ensure that we celebrated the fact and took on quite a number of additional activities.  I don’t have the space to do every activity justice but here is a wee overview:-

We increased our public profile which meant some of our more camera shy team members had their comfort zones well and truly smashed. We had stands at Union Square, the Aboyne games, the Inverurie Christmas show, the Dunecht Dash and many more. The Team’s social media profile was enhanced with an improved website, a Twitter account, and more activity on Facebook. We “rescued” a (not so) local Evening Express reporter from the top of Scolty hill (under a watchful gaggle of scouts) and “dangled” a Landrover International journalist on the end of a rope. Our sponsored walk was a great success on a beautiful sunny day at Glen Tanar.  We had a Team reunion at Braemar Mountain Sports Bothy, Mark Beaumont give a talk on our behalf and we danced into the night at our Ceilidh (some more than others). We produced our calendar, ran a limited edition whisky (still some available), made some Christmas cards and had Team members attend the Strathpuffer, the Highland Cross and a variety of other hill related races. “Phew”.

All this while trying to keep the following parties happy; wives, children, dogs, Dawn, employers, colleagues, family & friends. (And not always getting it right)!

In terms of callouts, we attended over 16 separate incidents ranging from missing persons to injured walkers. While the majority of the callouts have a happy conclusion, some sadly did not and our thoughts go to those who were affected by those tragic events in 2014.

“War Machine”

The US Army has Rambo, “Murder she wrote” has Jessica Fletcher and Aberdeen Mountain Rescue has “Stuart (Warry) Warrender who has an uncanny ability to be in the vicinity of someone having an “accident”. Thankfully we have trained him up to Cascare level so he is well suited to treat most hill related injuries and more.  Joking aside, Warry certainly had his skills tested last year and responded skilfully and professionally to every incident. Well done.

“Another One Bites the Dust”

When I wrote my last report the Team had gone through a substantial change in its structure and we had a healthy dose of eager new recruits.  Unfortunately in 2014 we saw quite a number of experienced Team members hanging up their crampons for a variety of reasons; time constraints, health reasons, or new jobs elsewhere.  We are sad to see them go and hopefully we will continue to see some of them, especially at the annual sponsored walk.  We are fortunate enough to still have a waiting list of potential recruits and will start the vetting process once the main winter season has passed. A few of us feel that we are likely to see a more fluid turnaround of Team members as less and less of them are actually local to the area and have moved here with employment. Whilst some will stay and settle, others will move as work or family commitments change.

“Keep on Running”

Every autumn we have elections for the role of training officer (T.O) and our latest T.O is attempting to introduce some Oil and Gas management quirks to the Team. This could be seen as a Sisyphean task by some but it is an admirable goal (How is that working out for you Rob?). It’s interesting to note that the majority of the Team have employment within the Oil and Gas industry and while it’s not intentional, you can often see the looks of bewilderment on the faces of the Team “non -Oiliees” when the conversation is loaded with acronyms. (“Why would you want to put a ‘Christmas tree’ on the sea bed?”)

The philosophy of “train hard fight easy “is equally applicable to Mountain Rescue as it is other services. While it is great to get on the hill on fine day and enjoy our amazing mountains, it is beneficial if the weather is a bit on the bleak side during Team training. It is important to know that you, your skills and kit can operate in any conditions. On one overnight search last year the evening started well enough with clear starlight skies and within a few hours the visibility was down to just meters with rain and gales that made even talking to the next guy difficult. Its times like this when our training kicks in and the preparation to get you and your kit right pays off. “Faff is the enemy” at the best of times but even more so in these situations. 

Training remains an essential part of what we do and it’s encouraging to see the less experienced guys running sessions. It builds their confidence, quite often brings a new approach or new idea into the open and helps form relationships. We try to keep our training relevant but have variety to keep it interesting and challenging.

Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) organise training courses throughout the year and we had no shortage of willing participants to attend these events.  Quite often we had Team members on the waiting list to take advantage of any last minute cancellations. The courses are a good opportunity to learn the latest techniques, get a feel for what other teams are doing, networking and the odd pint or two.  We are very fortunate that these courses are currently funded by SMR via Government grants, so costs to teams are minimal and hopefully this will continue to be the case.              

“Wind of Change”

SMR also became a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) in 2014 and teams across the country are doing the same. There are many benefits to the Team becoming a SCIO and at our AGM we voted in favour of us becoming one. It does mean that the Team and Association will become one body and that will require a new constitution and a slightly new way of working. We also have a long standing relationship with the Order of St John who have continually supported us and other teams over many years to acknowledge, and whilst we move into a new age we should also remember our heritage

“Eight Days a Week”

2015 looks to be another interesting year for the Team and for Mountain Rescue on a National level. Potential change to VAT giving much needed relief to teams, the economic uncertainty in the area could impact upon fund raising and becoming a SCIO creates opportunity to funding that was not so obvious in the past. I am sure there will be other challenges that are yet to appear.

Sadly this year sees also sees the trusty yellow Sea Kings being phased out from April onwards when the new Civilian SAR service comes into play. These have been a welcome sight many times on the hill and I have both witnessed and been aboard during some amazing displays of skill by the pilots and crews. She will be sadly missed but I am sure there will be some familiar faces popping up under the new contract. The new airframe is highly capable and we look forward to working with it.

Regardless of the challenges, the Team remain prepared and ready to assist those who may need help on the hill.

We are often asked for our top tips for keeping safe on the hill and our thoughts about the latest technological accessory. For me, it’s getting the basics right. Know how to use a map and compass, wear the right gear for the season, eat/hydrate properly, understand the forecast and let someone know your route plan. Get these basics right and you should be able to safely enjoy our magnificent playground.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there have fun and stay safe.

Scott Stevens - Ops Manager