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June 2017 Training Weekend Summary

The June training weekend saw the team based in the Derry Lodge bothy, from which an extended search, first aid and extraction exercise was planned.

With a good turn-out for the training day, the team was split into 3 separate hill parties, with less experienced team members given the roles as hill leaders. The scenario for the training was that 2 people had been reported missing on Ben Macdui, with their intended route leading them to Derry Lodge. In order to cover the most common routes from Ben Macdui to Derry, one team was going to search up via the Sròn Riach, the second team via Carn Crom and Derry Cairngorm, while the 3 rd (and largest team) was tasked with covering Glen Derry and Hutchison Memorial hut. This third team also had the unappreciative job of transporting the stretcher and casualty bag up towards Ben Macdui. While it’s made from lightweight aluminium, it still requires a good number of people to swap round
frequently, as everyone will already be carrying a heavy backpack in order to be self-sufficient for a day in severe weather.

My team (team 2, Derry Cairngorm) climbed up to Carn Crom, then spread out to do a line search down to the saddle and back up to Derry Cairngorm. While only having 5 people in this party, good visibility allowed us to spread out sufficiently to cover pretty much the whole plateau. On our way we had to assist and educate a less than prepared hill party.  We made sure they were travelling in the right direction before our ways separated as we reached Loch Etchachan.  Here we also met with the stretcher party, and together we made our way to the rescue box on the flanks of Ben Macdui. Seeking shelter from a couple of passing showers in bivvy bags, we stopped for lunch and waited for the Sròn Riach group to join us.


Once everyone was back together (and having failed to find any trace of the “casualties”, portrayed by our team doctors), it was decided to descend back down through Coire Sputan Dearg. And right enough, shortly after the casualties were spotted. While the first one was only cold and disorientated, the second one pretended to have sustained shoulder and leg injuries during a fall. The injuries were expertly treated by two cas-carers, before the casualty was packaged in the stretcher. 


The terrain in Coire Sputan Dearg luckily allowed for passages of pulling the stretcher over grass and heather, rather than having to carry it all the way. It takes 6 people (and frequent rotations) to carry the stretcher with a casualty in the cas-bag, on top of each team member’s backpack and other rescue equipment.


After about an hour of humping the stretcher across trackless, craggy and sometimes boggy terrain, the exercise was ended and the team returned back to the Derry Lodge bothy.


Words and photo by Thilo Rahn