I joined Mountain Rescue 12 years ago. At the time I was working as an Architect and had no children. It seemed like a great way to pursue my interest in the outdoors and at the same time give something back.
Since I joined the team, I have had two children and a complete change of career – I now work as a college lecturer running an outdoor adventure course. The team has provided continuity through all of this and has been amazingly flexible as my needs and ability to contribute have changed. I think the time commitment puts off a lot of women with young families, but joining a team is for the long haul, and everyone has circumstances that might affect their ability to contribute for a period of time; you do what you can. For me it was a great benefit, when my children were very small, to have a training commitment that made sure I got out on the hill from time to time – I think without that commitment to others I would have lost sight of one of the things I enjoy most for a while, and perhaps been the worse for it.
Being part of a team is supportive, friendly, funny, frustrating, and political – all at the same time! But most of all supportive – it’s been a great network of friends for me and a fantastic learning experience. When I joined the team I had no previous experience of mountain rescue and spent a lot of time feeling as though everyone else knew what was going on and I didn’t – but other team members were very patient with my questions, and I now realise that everyone is in the same boat when they first start out.
When a call out happens my first reaction is usually ‘I can’t go’ – ‘I’m too busy, I can’t sort out childcare, my kit’s not ready’ – and then after a minute of reflection the problems start to solve themselves, and I realise that I can make it work. And I’m always glad I did. There aren’t many more worthwhile ways to spend one’s time that I can think of.
There’s a great diversity of ages, backgrounds, careers and life experiences on my team, but out of over twenty team members only two are women. I’d like to see that change over the next few years.
I joined my local Arran MRT in 2004 after discovering my love for the hills and mountains and I thought it would be interesting to learn more skills, be part of a team who also love the mountains and help the local community in some way.
I also decided to train a search and rescue dog in 2015 through SARDA Southern Scotland as I love dogs and was really interested in learning the search dog side of MR.
I guess the downside of MR is leaving family from anything from a few hours to multiple days and also never fully knowing what you are being called out to, which can sometimes be daunting.
On the plus side, not fully knowing can also be exciting and the fact that you are all out helping people in need and hopefully bringing people home to their own families makes it all worthwhile.
No matter how experienced you are, there is always an element of risk to enjoying the mountains so being able to help others when things don’t go according to plan is a way of giving back.
MR has a very unique camaraderie between team members and although there are many different personalities and backgrounds, each and every person is giving their time freely to simply help others who want to enjoy the mountains, which to me is something very special and important.
Initially I hadn’t thought about joining the team, but I was asked if I was interested to come along to a training day. After meeting the team and being out on the hill with them, I was really keen to join and use my skills to help out people in need. Being a team member also compliments my job well, as there is a lot of transferable skills, and it helps me adapt to situations I might encounter while I’m working on the hills or in the sea and rivers.
The level of training we get is great, whether it’s technical rigging, avalanche rescue or something as simple as putting snow chains on the vehicles. I love the variety of both training and the call-outs, nothing quite like it to keep us on our toes! I don’t think there’s anything bad about being part of the team, but an early morning call out might appear momentarily inconvenient, all of that is forgotten once you are out.
Being a member of the team is fantastic, everyone is extremely supportive and was welcoming right from my very first training session. The Oban team also has a fairly high proportion of women, which is great to see when you are starting out and helps you realise that you don’t need to keep up with the 6ft-something guys! As well as meeting up for training or call-outs, I’ve also spent a lot of time going climbing and adventuring personally with other team members. There’s a real camaraderie within the team, it’s just really a big group of friends that enjoy similar things and have a passion for being in the Scottish mountains, whether for themselves or to help somebody.
When the call-out comes in, there’s the initial adrenaline as we’re uncertain of the situation or what we’re going into. The weather might be wild, wet and windy, especially in winter, but it doesn’t seem to affect us as much, because we are so focused on the situation and we know that someone needs our help. It’s only once you’re back to base that you get time to reflect on it all and realise exactly what happened while we were out. Getting a casualty down and safe reminds you why you volunteer for this, but we also have to be prepared for the times when it might not be such a successful outcome. Having the team there and people to open up to is really important for these situations, we are lucky to have this great network of support.
Being a member of my local team has helped me develop a whole range of skills and meet a really awesome bunch of people! I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had because of it, and I know there will be plenty more!
I joined Arrochar MRT 13 years ago and after holding the post of Training Officer for several years I am currently a Deputy Team Leader.
As I was getting more involved with Arrochar the national training programme of courses was developing and I attended all the early courses as a participant. Then, as a professional development within my outdoor instructor role, I completed training for the Mountaineering Instructors Award. Shortly after this I was approached to assist delivering the National Training Conference at Glenmore Lodge – the usual instructors were obviously employed somewhere else!
On the SMR courses I am lucky enough to work with incredibly experienced people. People who are extremely knowledgeable of all things rope and rescue related and who have vast experience in Mountain Rescue. Many are also professional mountaineering or outdoor instructors and there are other backgrounds in the group that allow different perspectives. This is critically important and allows the instructional team to cater for different backgrounds, equipment and terrain of the people that attend the courses.
As a member of the rigging working group, I was lucky to be chosen to attend the 2018 International Commission on Alpine Rescue (ICAR) conference in Chamonix to look at best practice in Search and Rescue (SAR) in other countries. The global family of SAR teams is incredibly supportive, and it is fantastic to know that MRTs in Scotland are as professional as any other nation.
In Highland Perthshire in 1975 pubs shut at about 2.30pm in the afternoon. When Bill Rose and Harry Lawrie convened a meeting to discuss establishing a Mountain Rescue Team, the meeting in the pub at 3pm attracted 40 people! Tragically Harry died in an accident during a Mountain Rescue call-out in 1977. To this day, Bill is still involved with the team and has held various roles on the committee for over 42 years.
Killin MRT has been a major part of family life for Bill. In early days, pre-mobile phones, his wife looked after the phones at home while he was on the hill during rescues. At first his children Alastair and Kirsty came along to training, fundraising and events that the team attended. When they were old enough, they joined the team themselves. For nearly 20 years the three family members have all been active members of the team. Father, daughter and son still take part in all aspects of team activity.
Bill is approaching 65 now and still attends all the training but is mainly not on the hill during call outs. The team has lots of keen and enthusiastic young members for the hill and Bill works to support these new people and pass on his knowledge and experience. His purpose now is to see the team that he was involved in establishing thrive into the future.
I joined the Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation (SCRO) 8 years ago, and I’m also the training officer.
When I was asked to join SCRO I was happy to help out. This was mostly because the caving community in Scotland is relatively small and I know most of them, so I wanted to be able to help them out should anything happen. Also, for selfish reasons it was good to know that others in the team would have my back if I have a mishap. We don’t just help fellow cavers though, as we provide wider services to the community. For example our team has helped searches for missing persons in culverts and gorges, and has rescued animals that tried their hand at caving/mine exploring without the right equipment.
It’s good being part of the team – cavers are an eccentric bunch and it’s a welcome outlet from the monotony of daily life when we are working together. I’ve picked up many useful skills that I’ve been able to transfer across into my day job. After making decisions under pressure in the hostile environment of a cave when I’m cold and soaked to the skin, it seems easier to work under pressure in a nice warm office. I’ve improved my ability to manage and lead people, as when leading training and exercises there are many strong personalities in our team (but they are very lovable) that I have to work with (and often coerce)!
Being in a rescue team has also made me a better caver as it has opened my eyes to the difficulties in rescue so I am more cautious than I used to be. I’ve also learned technical skills that could be used to help self-rescue myself and others in my group should something happen. The best part of being in the team is the satisfaction when we all work together and get a successful outcome, plus I’ve made several good friends in the team.
In the past year I’ve also been the joint statistician for Scottish Mountain Rescue. I volunteered, as I thought my skills from my day job could be of use to Scottish Mountain Rescue. In turn I’ve analysed some interesting data in response to a range of queries and this is has added to my professional experience that will help me at work. Volunteering with SMR has also introduced me to people from other SMR teams and these links have enabled us to share knowledge between our teams.