Mountain rescue team rises to the challenge
Mountain rescue team rises to the challenge: While most people were gearing up to celebrate the New Year with family and friends, members of Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) were holed up in a brothy in the Cairngorms, ready to help any climbers who found themselves in trouble.
The festive holidays are no different than any other time of the year for the MRT which provides a valuable life-saving service 365 days of the year.
And on December 30 they were called out to Ben Nevis when an avalanche strike caught out some climbers who became trapped in the snow.
Tragically, two men died in Number Three Gully before rescuers were able to reach them.
Fourteen of them were on duty over Christmas, with a dozen working at New Year.
And while they managed to have a few decent meals during their shifts, they were on call the whole time and spent up to nine hours a day out on the hills.
Members of the team explained why they put themselves forward for such a shift.
Graham Kelshaw (28), who has been on the team for the last seven years, said: "Most people come into this because they enjoy the challenge of outdoor tasks.
"It is something you can get a lot of pleasure out of and people do this job over Christmas because they want to.
"We can have a few drinks on Christmas Eve, but in general it's not quite as regimental over the festive holidays, although we are permanently on call."
Teamwork is vitally important in the MRT.
Everyone relies on each other and almost uniquely for the RAF, ranks are left behind when the team are together as hands-on eperience is what matters most.
And that's what ensures they are ready to respond when called upon to help climbers who get into difficulties over the festive holidays, a time when people take advantage of the bank holidays and take to the hills.
Team leader, Flight Sergeant John Roe, believes that most of the people they help are just unlucky and find themselves in dangerous situations through no fault of their own.
He explained: "Climbers are not as adventurous during the festive holidays and tend to stick to the more accessible hills.
"The majority of the rescues are because of slips, trips and falls.
"It can happen to anyone and they get a broken ankle and find themselves in trouble.
It's usually at the end of the day we get called out when people discover someone hasn't come back from a climb."
But even if they are called out to help someone who wasn't properly equipped for their climb, MRT members never lecture anyone.
"It's not our place to judge people and tell them if they didn't prepare properly or use the right equipment," said John.
"If the police want to do that they can but it's none of our business.
"We're just there to provide support to the police if they decide they need us.
"They can call on us knowing we are a well trained, self sufficient unit that can help out.
"And besides, I think the idea that lots of people go climbing on a whim without the right gear is a bit of a myth."
Source: Fife Herald, Friday, 8 January 2010.