Two personal accounts of a couple of member’s time in the team. One accounts for ten years and the other for forty.. the entire life of the team.
It has been a short ten years since I first became a full team member.
I did not decide to join on a whim. I thought about it for some time before I took the plunge. I had a bit of an insight it to what was needed as my ‘day’ job as a local Police Officer brought me into contact with them on a frequent basis.
My move to live in Ambleside gave me the impetus to apply to join the team back in 2002.
I should point out that being a volunteer on the team is just that, when there is a call out, I can only attend if I am not at work. I know that lots of colleagues are puzzled as to why I freely give up my own time to be a volunteer on the rescue team; to turn out on my days off in whatever the weather or time of day when I can be in the comfort of my own home. But I do and I enjoy being part of a rescue team, the team is my ‘hobby’ and I have been reminded of this on a number of occasions.
However it is when tragedy strikes as it has a few times this year I quite often swop hats and take on my ‘day’ job role, gathering evidence, securing possessions, locating witnesses and dealing with traumatised relatives or friends. This is so that the coroner, at an inquest many months down the line, can provide loved ones with a full understanding of why a person never returned alive from the fells.
After two deaths in June this year on Jacks Rake, Pavey Ark, there was a feeling in the team that we would be very unlucky to attend another there but you just can’t tell.
The morning team training session on the 14th July was interrupted by the pagers going off with the unbelievable message ’12-year-old male fallen 200’ from Jack's Rake’. It was a genuine heavy heart that I thought that my role again would change, as it was be ‘bound’ to be another fatality.
By the time we reached Stickle Barn in Langdale the Great North Air Ambulance had arrived and dropped a paramedic off to walk up to the scene. Les, the team Doctor, and I were picked up by the helicopter and flown to Stickle Tarn.
The normal silence which descends when the helicopter leaves was not there. At first I was too occupied with carrying all the equipment that I had with me to realise what I was hearing. But there it was, cutting through the silence, a boy shouting and screaming. I remember passing a radio message “He is talking” the reply from the base was “sorry, who’s taking?” I just said “The casualty. The casualty is talking”. This was the realisation that it was not going to be a repeat of what had gone before.
The scramble to where the boy was seemed to take an age. On arrival the scene I was confronted with was a boy not much older than my own son, with significant injures and obviously in extreme pain. Over the next hour everyone worked together the father, doctor, paramedic, team members and the crew of the RAF helicopter to treat, comfort and transport him to the safety of the hospital many miles away.
We have been getting updates of how he is doing and he is due to return to meet us in 2013 which is the best news we could ever have.
Why am I volunteer with the team? It is obviously not for money, not for recognition nor is it for ‘Kudos’. I do it because I enjoy it and because, as it has been said before, some days I can go home and say I was part of that and I made a difference.
Approaching an age when the fireside becomes more attractive in cold weather, the call of the pager does not go unheeded. Turning up at the rescue base on a call out, I am able to make a cup of tea and put my feet up in the nice warm control room. I also know that I will not have to go out in the cold, wet and dark.
I often think back to 1970 when the Ambleside Fell Rescue Team joined up with the Langdale Mountain Rescue Team. We had no proper base, very little equipment, no protective clothing of any worth compared to what we have today.
The team we have today is superbly equipped and over the years much better trained with the advance and enlightenment of present day thinking.
Many a special plan has been thwarted in the past 40 years. An evening out was arranged to celebrate my birthday at the Swan Hotel at Grasmere. Team member, Bob, his wife Jane and my own wife, Joan and myself were getting our glad rags on when a call out came. This was late afternoon early February, very cold and some snow around.
The call was to three injured walkers near Grisedale Tarn. They had tried to descend from Fairfield and ended up glissading down to the tarn hitting all sorts of obstacles on the way. Sadly, two were fatalities, the third we managed to get down to Dunmail and into the ambulance. Unfortunately this casualty also died later in hospital. Despite the tragic outcome, as soon as we could, we dashed back to Ambleside to get changed, (our wives already sitting down at the Swan), and managed to meet up, out of breath, before they finish the first course.
On another occasion Bob and myself were climbing Crescent Climb on Pavey Ark. It was a nice day and we enjoyed the challenge. Some members of the team knew we were on this climb. In those days call outs were by telephone so when they got a rescue call to Pavey they thought it might be us! They did not call our wives, thinking we may have been the victims. We were oblivious to the teams activities just a stone's throw away, we never heard a thing during the time the team were out. It was only when we were down back on tarmac that we heard all about it.
Writing this in December 2012, very cold and frosty outside, I am closing this little note and going back to my fireside.
Sadly Johnny died in 2017 after a career of over 50 years in mountain rescue.
He was a awarded an MBE for his service.