Sunday, 7 December 2008

Being a 'casualty' for Ochils Mountain Rescue - 6th Dec '08

Didn't go climbing this weekend as last month I had volunteered to be a casualty for a Mountain Rescue exercise in the Ochil's just outside Stirling.
We all had to meet up at 12pm outside Wallace High School just outside Stirling and I arrived in good time, to find that so had everyone else! Grabbed all my stuff together (minus a map as I didn't have one for that area, ooops!)
The story was, there had been a Geo-Caching event on the Ochil Hills but the participants had been given wrong Grid references, thus the participants had gotten pretty lost, with most managing to get down the hill but about 15 of us still out on the hill and lost/injured.
I ended up in the party of 3 who had to be out on the hill the longest :o) We were to walk up to near the summit of Ben Buck, contour round to a given point and hang about there till around 4.30, and then start walking off the hill, over towards Ben Bengangie, where we were to phone in around 4.50pm, and then start walking towards Bengengie and off the hill down by the 2nd Inchna Burn. We were to pretend that one of our party was exhausted and suffering from hypothermia (we had supposedly been on the hill since 7am)

It was a gorgeous day to be out on the hill on Saturday, one of those beautiful, cold but clear and crisp, winter days and myself and one of the other guys in my party, Alexander were moving fast. Alexander is over from America on a study trip of sorts. He is studying Medicine, and is looking into how the Rescue Teams work over here, dealing with injuries and the like, all sounded very interesting. Alex was the one to volunteer to be the casualty and our other team member, Stuart and myself were to be cold and tired too, but not as bad as Alex. Stuart was funny, ex military and had half the kitchen sink in his rucksack, including these wee glowsticks, which when it got dark,he attached to his hat, along with his headtorch, looked rather comical!
We stopped as planned at about grid ref NN 886 013 and sat and had some food, me eager for a cup of hot soup and my ham sarnie by this point, and after a few photos and a blether, it was time to head off towards Bengangie as the light was beginning to change and the temperature to drop a little. We decided to contour round nearer to Blairdenon Hill to avoid some steep descent and ascent and were too busy concentrating on our feet on the peat haggy ground and dimming light to notice the time. I asked, and it was 4.55, ooops but only 5mins late for our call in! I got out my mobile, hoping I wasn't too short on credit (pauper that I am!) but Stuart didn't need to worry about that so he used his phone instead whilst I got our grid reference, explaining to Alexander how to do it. Dave looked up the grid ref on his GPS, as did Stuart and I was chuffed at myself for getting it pretty much bang on.

The MR HQ told us to stop moving, try and get and keep warm and that they had teams out on the hill looking for us and would be with us ASAP. So, that was us, in for the wait to be 'rescued' Alexander got into his bivi bag (complete with karrimat!) and I got out my bothy bag. I've only got a 2man one so I just used it as a cover as I wasn't really that cold, although my feet were getting a bit nippy as my boots are needing a wee bit of a waxing!

We blew on our whistles every now and again, with Stuart's whistle being the best and Alex's being rather pathetic sounding. Stuart had on his glow stick by this point and Alex had on his torch set to flashing mode. Mine had been on flashing mode but I turned it to normal as Alex's was more powerful. I had forgotten to replace my fading batteries from last week (proper numpty stylee :o) so my torch was a tad on the dim side!
After about an hour we saw torches on top of Bengangie, torches coming up the Alva Glen and torches coming up from the way we had come initially. It was time to start getting into character! We all thought the folk coming where we had come from seemed nearest, but it was Alex from the Ochils team, coming up from Alva Glen who arrived 1st. I rushed off to meet him, gushing with relief and hurrying him up, 'Help, please! My mates are up there, one is so cold, he's getting confused and I'm really worried about him.' (Have to admit, I did feel like a bit of a pleb, lol!) Alex arrived and got out a group shelter and we all huddled inside it, bunging lots of clothes on top of Alex, an extra hat on his head and extra mitts on his hand. He even got his 1st ever taste of Bovril courtesy of MR Alex, which he found utterly disgusting. Mischievously, I kept trying to force feed him wee sips, telling him he had to have a warm drink, hehe! Poor lad, he was supposed to be hypothermic, but in reality was sweltering! Stuart had a thermometer on his compass and it had read 0degrees on the hill, and when we were in the shelter, it went up to 8degrees, so just shows how effective they are.

Next arrived a couple more folk with a couple of Search and Rescue dogs and we were ploughed with juice, jelly babies, Opal Fruits and Cereal bars. I felt a bit guilty about eating all their food as I wasn't even hungry! (but the Jelly Babies did go down a treat :o) Alex kept popping his head in to make sure we were ok and to see if we were warming up, and then reported that a Landrover was coming up the Silver Glen track and if we were able we could walk down to it, and then get a ride the rest of the way. If Alex was still too knackered then they would send more folk up, and he could get stretchered to the landrover. I'm not sure if we should have acted some more and said he was too knackered to walk (get them some more training in, lol!) but we decided we were ok to walk and everyone got their stuff together and started to walk back towards the way we had come initially.
Didn't take long to reach the Landy, and I sloped off for a pee as I was thinking we might be in for a rough ride down the hill and my bladder was full! It wasn't rough at all, but my heart rate did go up a notch once we hit the steeper zig-zag part of the track as at one point it almost seemed like the track went off the edge of the hill!
We were the last ones off the hill, and Stuart drove me back to my car, where I quickly got changed whilst my windows defrosted, then we drove off to Tillicoutry for free soup and stovies!

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