This bank holiday weekend each of our stores will be donating 10% of sales to their local Mountain Rescue Team through the Alpkit Foundation.
We’re proud to be supporting the following teams who keep us safe around our Alpkit store locations, keeping a watchful eye on us as we play outside. So we'd absolutely love to see you over the weekend, getting excited about what you're going to be up to, but also for you to hopefully meet the teams that look after us and to help support them and the work that they do.
The outdoors has been a saviour over the last year, right down to those walks in the local park. With lockdown restrictions easing, more and more of us are spreading our wings further and heading to those beautiful areas that we’ve missed for sometime now. As we head into summer we can only see the numbers enjoying these places increasing and if we’re not careful and respectful we may well see an increase in the number of people getting into difficulties as well as trashing those places we love so much.
Luckily for all of us we have our Mountain Rescue teams continually watching our backs as we head outside, no judgement, just ready to step in and help anyone in trouble.
Yet we all have to play our part. With two new Alpkit stores open and 6 now dotted around at the heart of some of the most amazing locations in the UK, it’s an ideal opportunity for us to help give something back to those dedicated teams of volunteers ready to step in and help us whenever we need them.
We chatted to some of them about how their year has been and how they feel things might look over the coming months.
John Hunston, Keswick MRT treasurer, reflected on how they have been getting on over the last year.
“In common with most organisations, the last year has been a strange one for Keswick MRT, going from very few rescues indeed after the first lockdown last year, to the busiest time anyone can remember over the summer. We ended up the year with 90, a little lower than usual but still quite busy overall.
The current year has been relatively quiet, with only 10 rescues to the 19th May as I write this, but we are expecting this to change very rapidly as lockdown eases and the late May Bank Holiday brings more people into the town and onto the surrounding fells.”
This is a sentiment very much shared by the other MRT’s, as Myfyr Tomos from South Snowdonia Search and Rescue Team (SSSART) follows up.
“If last summer is anything to go by then we’re expecting the local hot spots to be packed solid (weather dependant of course!) While the total number of incidents wasn’t much different than other years, they all got compacted into a much shorter period. We found that we were being called out to very different scenarios and type of people than normal, this was mainly down to a lack of preparation, with very little equipment and experience."
The challenges facing the MRT’s over the last year has impacted on how they both respond to emergency call outs and their ability to fundraise in order to cover the costs through the year.
Dave Torr, Team Leader at Edale MRT explains a little more.
“August 2020 will stay in our memories for a long time. During this first easing of the initial lockdown, people wanted some freedom. With the staycations, it was inevitable that we and the rest of the Mountain Rescue England and Wales teams would be potentially busy. We dealt with thirty jobs in that hot August. The wearing of PPE and extra coverings, meant that it was very uncomfortable.
The decontamination of the kit, rapidly became another problem, and we had to invest in extra equipment so we would be ready for the next job. The extra investment, cost the team something in the region of £12,000 for 2020.
We ended the year on a record 159 jobs in total, ranging from rescuing lost and despondent souls to lots of people with lower leg injuries and several fatalities, along with the usual climbers, mountain bikers, para gliders, horse riders, etc.”
Ninette Edwards, Fundraising Officer Northumberland National Park MRT explains the difficulties they have faced.
“The last year has been challenging for the mountain rescue teams, learning to operate within COVID-19 protocols and wearing PPE, struggling with finances as annual fundraising events were cancelled, responding to 150 incidents in 2020 and 60 within the first four months of 2021, and moving training to online sessions and small group face to face sessions in private locations when restrictions allowed.
With staycations being so popular this year, mountain rescue teams all over the country are expecting more people to be enjoying the outdoors, and it is inevitable that call outs will increase for our team. Although lockdown is ending, the risk is still very real for our volunteers and it takes longer for us to deploy because of COVID protocols.”
All the MRT's are made up of passionate volunteers with a real love of the outdoors, so they know how important being able to enjoy these places is. But to reduce the chances of needing to be called out they also work hard to educate and advise those heading out. If we're not careful then there's a risk that the teams will become too stretched to effectively cover everything.
SSSART saw clear evidence of this after last years easing of lockdown restrictions, as Myfyr explains "From the call outs last year, what became apparent was the lack of forward planning by many going into the hills and we saw many incidents where people were getting lost, with no maps or a lack of adequate equipment. So while we love to see people out enjoying these beautiful places, we encourage people to be fully prepared. Oh and equally important is for people to TAKE EVERYTHING BACK with them!"
John from KeswickMRT is similarly pragmatic.
“We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the area, but hope they are a little more cautious in their approach to taking to the hills. The Stay Safe leaflet is a useful aide memoire and can be found HERE"
Of course it's not just one type of activity either, the teams will cover everything from walkers to mountain bikers and even support other rescue services such as water rescue teams.
"Recent rescues include a difficult stretcher carry from the slopes of Green Gable down Sour Milk Gill to Seathwaite. If you have ever been up or down this route will be able to understand how awkward this was. Alternative options were considered but in the end this was regarded as the best of a bad job!
We had our own Touching the Void incident when a lone walker descending Eagle Crag took a tumble resulting in multiple injuries, then managed to crawl for 3 or 4 hours down towards Greenup Ghyll, where he was fortunate to be spotted by walkers on the other side of the river. He likened it to Doug Scott on the Ogre! A coastguard helicopter managed to land ‘light on wheels’ in the dark to take him to hospital.
We’ve also had a mountain biker, a paraglider and a photographer who slipped into Launchy Ghyll by Thirlmere, requiring extrication using rigging lines.”
The outdoors has never been as popular and as more and more of us venture out this year it's reassuring to have the knowledge that we have these teams of volunteers on call 24/7 whatever the weather and free of charge. So any support we can give helps to maintain this amazing service they offer. We'll let Dave Torr wrap up for us and hopefully see you at the weekend!
"This year to date, Thursday, 20th May 2021, we have completed 47 jobs. The easing of the lockdown has just been introduced for just four days and we honestly don't know how things are going to pan out, but the trends tell us that we could end up with another record year.
We are ready as always to serve the public, we have the resources to cope, the team have acted with the utmost professionalism and I could not be more proud of their achievements.
Without initiatives like Alpkit are running, with their 10% from sales over the Bank Holiday, and the generous support from the public, we could not possibly operate as a totally government unsupported charity. So please support the team by visiting your local Alpkit store where we will be fundraising too. There will be team merchandise, as usual, on sale inside the shop too, and we love to chat to you all!"