A Trainee's Tale - The New Trainee Aged 50 yrs and 1/2

Back in October 2010 my wife, 12 year old son, Corrie the dog and myself moved into a rented house in Bowness on Windermere. I had managed to persuade my employers that a move to Cumbria would be of no detriment to my workload and that I could work out of one of our offices based at Glasson Dock on a day to day basis.

Why then move to Bowness on Windermere? My grandmother had lived in the village for some 50 years and as such most of my school holidays were spent exploring the surrounding fells. We already lived in a beautiful part of the country in Herefordshire but the lure of the Lakes was always there. We managed to sell our home in the Welsh Marches and decided to rent a house while we looked for something more permanent. We could do this at our leisure and also to make sure we were not looking at the Lake District through “rose tinted spectacles”. It may be different living here to coming here on holiday.

The next 12 months raced by and the area lived up to all expectations. Even having one of the worst winters in many years thrown at us did not dampen our enthusiasm for this wonderful place. We bought a house on the outskirts of Windermere and moved in exactly 12 months after moving to Bowness.

One of the great passions throughout my life have been the mountains and many happy days have been spent walking and camping in the glorious surroundings of the Lake District, Welsh Mountains and indeed Scotland. I had now the opportunity to sample the delights on a daily basis and not just when visiting. If ever I did feel lazy a very energetic Collie X Springer dog soon dragged me out for his daily “Yomp” on the fells.

About 17 years ago I spent a few years as a member of Longtown Mountain Rescue Team in the Black Mountains / Brecon Beacons of Wales. Although a quite small team I enjoyed the team spirit generated by a diverse group of individuals and this got me thinking about the possibility of joining the local rescue team based in Ambleside.

Now 17 years is a long time ago and while I have tried to keep reasonably fit the pounds do creep on and the miles spent behind the wheel for work take their toll quicker than when you are 20! However, life can be full of regrets for not having done something you wanted to do so I thought I would have a look at the Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team (LAMRT) web site to see how I could join.

I sent an e-mail to the team website indicating my interest in joining them. Almost immediately I received a phone call from the training officer suggesting I pay them a visit one evening and to pop in for an informal chat. Here they could explain how the team works and the commitment required by myself to become a full team member in due course.

Now please remember I have passed the 50 year old marker and with that lots of experience has been shoved into the recesses of my brain, so no need to feel nervous then? Wrong! I could not help thinking that I was being over ambitious and I would be greeted by a couple of Special Forces types who would give me lip service and politely decline my request to join. How wrong could I have been, I was greeted by the Training Officer and Deputy Team leader who could not have been more friendly and welcoming. As a bonus I was not the oldest there either!

Having given a brief précis of my experience they both explained the structure of the team how it is funded almost totally through charitable donations. As such all team members are volunteers, give their time freely and are on call 365 days of the year.

The spread in experience within the team surprised me with a few members having put in over 40 years service, we should all be grateful for their incredible dedication over the years. The skills required to undertake the work requested of the team demands a continuous training programme covering many aspects of Mountain Rescue. Subjects such as medical, technical rope work, navigation, radio operation, off road driving, swift water rescue, learning how bits of kit work and how they are packed into vehicles all need to be covered in great detail. To facilitate this training a programme is published showing dates, times and places these subjects will be covered. The sessions themselves are held either mid week in the evenings or on a Saturday morning around twice a month.

Following my initial meeting I was accepted by the committee to join LAMRT as a new trainee to the team. Total full team members at present number around 36 with another 5 trainees like myself. My commitment in return was to attend as many training sessions as possible. The training sessions are usually delivered by existing team members who are highly skilled in these topics.

The programme for all trainees is a first assessment after 3 months to ensure all is progressing satisfactorily. At six months you will receive a pager that now allows you to attend any of the call outs. You will be able to help out with carrying kit up and stretcher carries down at this stage but not with any hands on casualty care. This six month milestone really makes you feel as though you are contributing to the team and its efforts to provide emergency care. The next milestone for the trainee is at 12 months when if all the boxes have been ticked you are invited to become a full team member. This however is still only the start of a learning process that will continue as long as you remain with the team.

Personally I am 7 months into my training and very much looking forward to becoming a full team member. If you would have said only 7 months ago I would be abseiling 150 feet down a cliff guiding a stretcher and team member to the bottom as part of a training exercise, flying around the fells above Ambleside in a Sea King Helicopter, learning new skills in first aid and emergency casualty care, digging snow holes in the Cairngorms, throwing myself into a freezing raging river as part of a Swift Water exercise, driving off road in one of our Land rovers, out on the streets of Ambleside marshalling a Christmas lantern procession and fundraising for the team with a bucket I would have said you were barking mad! But it’s true and there are lots more I could have listed including my first rescue that involved a 3 mile carry off the fell to an awaiting ambulance late into the night in some pretty wet conditions. Add in the fact that I have been made to feel so welcome by all the team members who are as diverse a bunch you could wish to imagine. The whole experience to date has been one never to forget. If you have the enthusiasm and dedication required in whatever part of the country you live in don’t be nervous just make that first initial contact. You won’t regret it.

Ian Moseley, April 2012