Last weekend, I was part of a group that paid a visit to the Headquarters of Edale Mountain Rescue Team, based within the Cement Works buildings belonging to Hope Construction Materials. The HQ is housed in three former truck garages, which have been converted into two floors of working and training spaces – including a training wall (not just a climbing wall, we were told) for practice rescues and the like. The Edale team is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom, with two to three call-outs most weeks, and covers a large area of the Peak District National Park along with adjoining parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire – and including popular climbing spots such as Stanage Edge – and it really is a case of walkers and climbers volunteering to help other walkers and climbers.
Mountain Rescue in the UK (and the unified term covers areas of moorland and other less hilly parts too) is an entirely voluntary enterprise, funded by donations, although many of the volunteers have jobs related to healthcare or the emergency services – and many don’t as well. The first organised teams were formed in the early part of the twentieth century in response to a number of tragic accidents involving climbers and hillwalkers, which highlighted the need for properly trained and fully equipped rescue parties as well as leading to the development of the first stretchers designed specifically for bringing casualties down from the mountains.
Teams initially used their own transport to reach incidents, but these days they have designated vehicles, equipped with blue emergency-response lights and driven by team members who have received training from the police or ambulance services. For difficult-to-retrieve casualties, they are able to call on the Air Ambulance and Helicopter Search and Rescue services as well as Cave Rescue Teams. Likewise, Mountain Rescue Teams are often called in by other emergency services to aid in extracting casualties and in searching for missing persons – Edale have two trained search dogs – and one of my colleagues at the day job was recently part of such as search as part of her work with the Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team. The Edale Team were very welcoming when we visited – providing tea and some excellent home-made cakes while we watched a short film, 48 Hours in Mountain Rescue (there’s also a shorter version here), before showing us around their buildings and answering our many and varied questions. The team are always on the lookout for new volunteers, although a large and time consuming commitment is required from team members, so those who want to help in smaller ways are encouraged to join the fundraising and supporters group, Friends in High Places (FiHP).
Mountain Rescue is an official, though non-publically-funded emergency service in the UK (reached by those in need on 999 with the request for ‘Police and Mountain Rescue’) but I don’t think I’ve seen much (if any) fiction with their volunteers as protagonists. Someone tell me I’ve missed the stories somehow!