Team Leader's Report 2015

Operation’s Manager Report 2015

 “Walk This Land”

This years reflection has been started several times but never quite finished, so this weekend I have committed to finishing it and getting it sent to Dawn our Chairperson. Why so many versions you may ask? The reality is, since Christmas Eve we have been flat out as a Team. Every weekend in 2016 so far has seen the Team or Team members attending callouts, training or other SMR related activities.

Bennachie has seen us deployed three times this year for three separate broken ankle incidents.  It may not be a very big hill in mountaineering terms, but it remains a busy enough wee spot. The latest callout there thankfully, saw swift resolution with Rescue 951 winching the casualty off the hill, before the Team members went to help some curious observers to get un-stuck from their steep vantage point. The previous weekends callout had seen Rescue 951 unable to lift the casualty due to poor visibility and the party of six had to carry the casualty-laden stretcher a fair distance to the nearest transport (I got there as fast as I could guys, honest).

In terms of callouts 2015 had not been a particular busy year and in Mountain Rescue that’s just the way it goes some years. Whilst a lack of call outs on our patch is good in terms of folk not getting into bother, it does mean that there is additional effort ensuring the Team remain focused and ready to respond.

Our training calendar remains full as we continually go through the cycle of practising our key skills which range from first aid, navigation, off-road driving, technical rope skills, avalanche preparedness and hill craft whist keeping fit enough to be part of the Team.

Recruitment is a continuous challenge, as Team members leave (for a wide variety of reasons) we must look to fill the gap. Whilst we are sad to lose experienced Team members, we must ensure that the Team remains operationally at its best. That means selecting suitable recruits to join the Team and getting their skills MRT ready.

“Come a Long Way”

2016 will see a very significant change in how the Team is managed. For almost 40 years, the Team has been supported by the Aberdeen & St John Mountain Rescue Association.  As a Team, we have always been thankful to have a dedicated group of people who help raise funds, promote the Team and organise events such as our annual sponsored walk.

However, Mountain Rescue is ever evolving and the Team took the decision in 2015 to become a SCIO. There are many benefits to becoming a SCIO but it did leave us with the dilemma of having two charitable organisations for one Team.  You do not need to be a business expert to recognise the inefficiencies in operating in such a manner. The suggestion for the two organisations to merge was aired, and in principal many agreed that this was the way forward.

A series of meetings and workshops followed to ensure we were doing the right thing, and that the inevitable change is managed accordingly. As our Associations’ full title suggests we have an established close connection to St John Scotland (formerly the Order of St John) and this relationship will continue as before.

Thankfully, our Current Association & St John members are happy to become part of the new SCIO and for most of those involved; it will be business as usual.  Many thanks to Kev at Ochils, Steve at Tweed Valley and Andy at SMR for their time and advice that was of massive benefit to us.

“Restless Natives”

As ever, Team members like to keep themselves busy throughout the year for many reasons.  For some, it’s participating in the activity that first brought them to the Team, or a means of keeping fit and for others it’s the inability to sit still for too long that drives them out the house before they drive their families mad.

We had Teams and individuals enter into the Highland Cross, Etape Roayle, The Highlander, The Illuminator, Bennacie Hill race and in January 2016 saw us re-enter the Struthpuffer after missing it last year. We also sent a wee raiding party to Italy to compete in the Dolomites Mountain Rescue race, which was certainly an experience. Detailed accounts are in the newsletter.

I always enjoy listening to the stories when the guys come back from an event and their enthusiasm is great to be around; admittedly hearing their tales makes me yearn for my sleeker years.

 “Be Long Here”

The end of 2015 saw the Team called out to assist during the flooding of Ballater and Aboyne. This was certainly new territory for the Team and we are reflecting on areas where we can reasonably improve. The guys did a great job in very challenging conditions and they pushed themselves and the gear to its limits in order to help the community. The power of a river that has burst its banks should not be underestimated.

2016 has started with a few shouts on Beannchie and as I write this, we have already witnessed some tragic events on the Scottish hills where there has been injury, loss of life or there are still souls unaccounted for.

Teams across the country continue to turn out and help their communities by employing their specialist skills on the hill, during resilience activities, searching for missing persons and spreading the word about mountain safety. 

This is where you come in. You can help, not only by supporting us, or your local Team in whatever way you can but also, by learning or passing on to others the basics in hill craft. We know very well that accidents can happen to anyone, if you and your party are well prepared it may make the difference between a “good story” and an “epic”.

Simple things such as telling someone your route or leaving a route card, allowing plenty of time, having a head torch, turning back if it gets too much, wearing the right gear, having an escape plan, eating & drinking the right things and learning navigation with a map and compass. Often these topics can catch folks out.

2016 has already seen some excellent mountain days with stunning blue skies and amazing snow conditions.  Keep an eye out for folks with sunburnt cheeks and happy smiles following a good day on the hill, it can be catching.

PS: Oh and Willi, Aurepi and Zou should you read this, a wee donation would not go amiss.

Scott Stevens - Operations Manager