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The Gathering - Aviemore 13th & 14th Sept

Team members attended or instructed several workshops aimed at sharing latest developments and skills between the various teams.  The event was attended by teams from all over the UK, and even a few from as far as Iceland – a fantastic opportunity to see how teams from all over operate.  The workshops are led either by instructors from Glenmore Lodge or Mountain Rescue Team Members.  

The conference kicked off on Friday night with a show by Andy Kirkpatrick which had delegates creased over with laughter throughout – an inspirational and simultaneously hilarious show!!  This was followed by opportunities to meet those other delegates who had arrived throughout Friday. 

Team members attended a number of different workshops, and have shared some of their experiences below: 

“As part of the MRCofS Gathering I met up with other MRT members from all over Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland for a workshop titled ‘A Cairngorm Outing’ led by Willie Anderson and Donnie Williamson, Cairngorm Team Leader and Deputy Leader respectively. We headed off into the Northern Corries and up onto the plateau before returning to the Ski Centre. The walk was interspersed with stories and anecdotes about recent and not so recent, callouts and Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team’s response in some very testing weather conditions. Unsurprisingly, CMRT have to contend with many of the same issues in the northern section of the Cairngorms that we have to in the southern section. It was very beneficial to get an insight into another team’s response to a callout in bad weather conditions, over difficult terrain, at night with all the added spice of line searching in an 80mph wind!

Instructors from Glenmore Lodge were also running mountain biking workshops for the MRCofS Gathering and it is always hugely rewarding to learn from these guys who are instructing on an almost daily basis. I went out for a decent spin around the tracks and trails near Aviemore where, thankfully, my total novice status was partly disguised. Coming from a road biking background and having no real experience of mountain biking, I learned a great deal in a relatively short space of time! Whether or not AMRT members will be issued with mountain bikes for rapid response remains to be seen but if they do, I’ll be ready!"

Billy Lindsay

“The biannual UK and Irish mountain rescue conference or gathering, is a unique opportunity to share ideas and the latest thinking in all aspects of mountain rescue and I was very privileged to be asked to instruct on one of the workshops entitled avalanche and hypothermia.  This was a 5 hour workshop run on Cairngorm Mountain and attended by rescuers from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. We covered assessment and treatment of casualties suffering from all ranges of hypothermia and exposure. We were very lucky to have access to the latest information and as yet unpublished guidelines for treatment of casualties who have suffered a cardiac arrest because of severe hypothermia or near drowning thanks to Dr Ian Scott, an anaesthetist in Aberdeen who was heavily involved in the treatment of the avalanches last year in the Cairngorms.

We also had the chance to try out some cutting edge equipment that can do the work of chest compressions which could allow casualties a higher chance of survival, although these bits of kit could cost up to £12,000 each!  

The feedback from the sessions was very encouraging and I was extremely impressed at how well these volunteers, who had never met each other worked so well as a team during the scenarios and this again demonstrates the very high level of training and ability of UK and Irish mountain rescue team members have.”

Alastair Glennie - Team doctor.

“With a cracking forecast for the weekend I was pleased that I’d selected 2 outside based workshops!  On Saturday I attended a workshop entitled “MR Skills” which was billed as covering small team navigation and search techniques.  Arriving at Cairngorm car park, we were each handed a shiny new Garmin GPS to play with for the day.  The core of the days’ workshop was line searching, and the effective use of GPS to facilitate an efficient and comprehensive search of an area, as well as to practice the use of a much underused navigation aid!  A rep from Garmin was out with us as well to help with the use of the GPS units, and to gather feedback on how we would like to see units improved / developed.

A few exercises in the use of GPS and in particular their tracking / way marking functions was followed by line searches both with and without GPS units to show how much more effectively an area can be covered using GPS units to track our progress.  A final line search sweeping down a burn line led us back to the car park, but not before we’d made several “finds” of stashed biscuits along the way!  Cheers to Andy and Andy from Oban and Lomond teams for running the workshop!

Sunday for me was Rescue Rigging.  This was a discussion rather than instruction based day – all hands on and practical.  The workshop leads (John from Cairngorm and Jim from Torridon teams) started out with a bit of theory before leading demos and exercises looking at lanyard use, different edge management techniques, and various methods of rigging a stretcher for a lower.   It was really interesting to see the different ways in which teams accomplish these tasks and to discuss the pros and cons of each. 

After a cracking lunch in the sun we moved onto rigging raise and lower systems using various devices, including some new ones onto the market and again discussing the various ways in which the teams rig for different scenarios.  A session on ground anchors followed where we setup hedgehog and claw anchors (designed for when we need to work on grassy slopes with no other anchor options).  Lastly we were introduced to a new (to most of us) technique for moving a stretcher down a short section of difficult terrain using a system similar to, but much easier than, a Tyrolean traverse.  It was very interesting to see that despite minor differences in technique, all the teams seem to use very similar tactics – even those from Iceland who had never been involved with UK MRT previously.”

Stuart Doig

“Saturday took us and the new wagon to an area just inside the Rothimurcus Estate. The objectives of the day where to go through simple 4x4 recovery techniques one might encounter during a search and rescue call out.

Starting with an inspection of each land rovers recovery kit we progressed onto to simple tow recoveries progressing to more controlled winching recoveries utilising various ground anchors. Vehicles ranged from a low spec Discovery 2, to highly kitted out Defender 130 vehicles, all performing as they should.”

Chris Hind

Cairngorm MRT opened their base to all delegates to attend an early evening social, well supported by the Cairngorm Brewery, allowing us to see how our neighbouring team operates – many thanks for the hospitality and tour of the base guys!

A dinner (complete with piped in and addressed Haggis) and the presentation of several distinguished service awards to long standing (Suffering?) members of teams from all over the UK kicked off the evening.  A fantastic ceilidh followed and chance to meet / socialise with other teams.  No better way to get to know each other than over a strip the willow and wee dram!

Throughout, team members were able to mix with and meet other teams socially, discuss equipment with suppliers and have a first glimpse of new equipment coming our way from several suppliers at an exhibition at the MacDonald resort – a great opportunity to learn more about our gear and the suppliers who support Mountain Rescue behind the scenes.

A cracking event and weekend – cheers to all involved in its organisation and here’s looking forward to Dublin 2016!