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Outdoors / The Pack / Katie Roby

Mountain Rescue Team

Katie Roby talks about what it's like to work for the Mountain Rescue Team

I suspect that most of you reading this will be hoping for dramatic tales of epic rescues from treacherous mountain tops.  Hold that thought .......
 
I didn't really know much about Mountain Rescue before I joined.  I had seen a few clips on the news, particularly after the search for April Jones in Machynlleth.  I had visions of rescuers in red racing up hillsides with their stretchers, doing CPR before being whisked away in a helicopter.  It has been an eye opener to learn a bit more about what the team are actually asked to get involved in.  As well as providing a search and rescue service for climbers, hill walkers and river users, the team is also used to search for vulnerable or missing persons within the community.  More often than not, these searches last for hours, sometimes days, are at unsociable times of the day/night and involve lots of trudging in miserable conditions - a far cry from my vision of rescuers in red!
 
I joined Brecon Mountain Rescue Team 15 months ago.  I have completed the trainee program and am (hopefully!) nearing the end of my probationary period at which point I will become a full team member.  I have been given a pager and attend call outs with the team who provide guidance and supervision where needed.  There are about 50 of us; all are volunteers.  We train one evening a week and one Sunday a month as well as providing cover for local events and participating in fundraising events.
 
So what are the good bits? Most of the time there is a happy ending; injured people get rescued and the lost get found.  Without sounding too cliché, there is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing you have been involved in that process.  I've learnt a lot and expect to continue learning, from both a technical and medical point of view.  It's quite exciting travelling in blue lights.  It’s got me out onto the hill on days I probably wouldn't have ventured out otherwise.  The team are lovely too.
 
And the bad?  Often the pager goes off just as you are tucking into your Sunday dinner, or you end up getting back home in the early hours of the morning.  Invariably the weather conditions are horrendous and you end up with wet underwear.  There are times when the ending isn't so good and this is sad.
 
From a personal point of view, my time with Mountain Rescue has considerably changed my approach to training and racing.  As runners (I am about to make some sweeping generalisations) we like to think we are invincible, and for most of the time, as we are trotting along the Beacons Way, we are.  We're efficient at keeping our body temperature at the right level, our lungs work well and our hearts are healthy.  The problem is that as soon as we stop, whether that be due to an injury or getting lost or helping someone else out, we run into trouble.  We are pretty stingy when it comes to carrying extra weight.  Most of us are 10 stone soaking wet, so carrying an extra 500g for a jacket, or a spare hat, is significant, particularly over 20 miles.  We run light, after all we're keeping warm by running, and it’s not that far back down to the car anyway.  We often run solo, who else is silly enough to join us for a 20 mile training run on a Sunday morning?  We know the route well so no need for a map or compass .....
 
Well, that used to be my approach anyway.  I'm now much more aware of how easy it is to get caught out and have seen how quickly people, even if they are fit and healthy, can deteriorate.  I now carry a small pack or bum bag which contains a phone, map, compass, hat, survival bag, an emergency bar/gel and waterproof.  It actually doesn't weigh that much and I'd far rather carry a few extra grams and be able to sort myself out if I get into difficulty. 
 
So unfortunately no tales of heroic rescues but have a look at the links below for more information on some searches we were recently involved in.  Mountain Rescue provides a brilliant service to those using the mountains, with team members committing a huge amount of time and energy for training and call outs.  For a "bunch of volunteers" the team are extremely professional and work hard to provide a very high standard of care. 

About the Mountain Rescue Team http://www.breconmrt.co.uk/

MRT facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brecon-Mountain-Rescue-Team/153883401362174?fref=ts

50 rescuers' nine-hour student hunt in Cambrian mountains http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-26008456

Boat found in river search for kayaker in Llangynidr, Powys http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-26110031

 

03/04/2014
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