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Mountain Rescue Race - Dolomites - October

The team were recently invited to the 5th International Dolomite Rescue Race the Cadore region of Italy (http://www.dolomitirescuerace.it), held on the first weekend of October. Despite the short notice we were fortunate enough to send over a small group to compete in the race. Ourselves and Kelso were not only the 1st Scottish teams to attend, but also the 1st UK based teams to enter. The race is now quite a key event in the calendar of the “corpo nazionale soccorso alpino” and is a chance for teams to meet up out with an operational event. It is described as being a “non- competitive” event; however it is clear to see there is healthy competition to win.


The trip started badly when we were told our initial flight was cancelled and we wouldn’t be flying until much later that day. With some successful MR sweet talk, and last minute bag arranging we were on our way again albeit via Verona rather than the planned Venice (car hire arrangements were then updated to get the team into a Fiat 500). On arrival we were given a very welcome upgrade, then proceeded to negotiate Italian peak time traffic. A quick slice of (very good) pizza en-route and we arrived in the town of Pieve Di Cadore just in time for the weekends safety briefing.  Our host for the weekend, Laura, was waiting for us and led us into the beautiful municipal building in the town centre.  We took our seats and before we knew it ourselves and the Kelso team were paraded in front of the assembled teams to introduce ourselves. It is fair to say we received a very warm welcome.  Safety briefings complete we then headed down to the local MR station to borrow some ropes and get familiar with the stretcher required for the race. By now it was getting late and there was no time for dinner or chance to chat with our hosts. Breakfast was planned for 0630hrs and the transport to the race start was for 0730hrs. So it was a late night sandwich, water, packing and bed for the team.


Upon waking the weather was akin to that of a Scottish morning – damp, and as we breakfasted in one of the local cafes we at last got to see the amazing scenery that surrounded us.  The start point was in the next village with a stream of land rovers and minibuses transporting the teams to a very picturesque meeting point where kit was checked and race numbers attached.


The race began with a mass start from a holding pen at around 1000m altitude.  Most teams jogged comfortably through a short woodland trail section, with a few teams walking and a few disappearing ahead.  The path then rose steeply through a forest with approximately 600m height gain, then opened out onto a plateau, which the teams ran across before reaching another section of ascent, again around 600m height gain, but this time on a more open and rocky slope.  At the top of this section there was a short (but very exposed) section of via-ferrata climbing.  Most teams had been running in their harnesses to aid in a quick transition.  The via-ferrata was around 250m long, with some tricky ascents and descents, and after this the teams ran along a ridgeline on a reasonably flat trail for a few miles.  This led to the abseil section.  At any one time there were about three teams setting up their ropes from a rocky outcrop in order to abseil down about 40/50m.  From there it was a switchback ascent down to the valley (losing about 1000m altitude) on land rover tracks and forest singletrack – a true leg-burner.  The final stage was setting up the stretcher and running through the town centre for about 1km to the finish line, where the teams were greeted by water, sweet tea and applauding locals.  The atmosphere was great and most teams hung around to cheer others coming across the finish line.


Following the race there was a chance to fuel up with a much needed meal prepared by a gang of local ladies. It was then time to shower and change into our Kilts for the presentations and post-race party.  Again we were called up where a number of presentations were made. The prizes that were on offer to the winning teams and during the raffle were of a very high standard. There was also an emotional memorial presentation to a local team member who had lost two of his friends in an avalanche.  The party continued into the afternoon and well into the night. Our hosts were great fun but the mix of whisky and the local produce took its toll.


There are many similarities between the Scottish and Italian teams in terms of team size, funding and camaraderie. They are a completely voluntary organisation and rely heavily on sponsorship as well as what funds the government make available. The main differences being their “playground” is equally as dramatic, but much higher and the way they utilise their helicopters is quite interesting.


We must thank Laura and Michela for looking after us so well; Marco Di Cadore for organising such a great event and all the other fellow Mountain Rescuers we met and struck friendships with. A truly memorable weekend.


Our lads did extremely well given this was their 1st time and had had little time to prepare for a race that was new to us.

However, next time….