A Royal Navy Sea King in action. Downdraft will whip up loose items

With mountain rescue services back in the public spotlight again with the likely privatisation of search and rescue helicopters, there is a timely reminder from an expert of a sobering fact: there is no right of rescue for mountain-goers.

More snow is likely this weekend, and many hillwalkers and climbers may venture on to the mountains without the necessary planning and knowledge of how to get themselves out of trouble.

Originally published on the British Mountaineering Council website two years ago, Anthony Jones of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation makes a plea for climbers, fellwalkers and mountaineers to remember one vital fact: it’s their responsibility to get themselves safely back down off the hills.

Mr Jones said: “In the United Kingdom you have the privilege of an effective rescue service that is only too willing to assist when asked. Anyone or any group going onto the mountains, fells and moorlands has the responsibility for getting themselves and their companions safely back.

“The availability of a rescue service does not reduce or remove this responsibility. The development of self-reliance is to be encouraged strongly and recourse to the rescue service, ideally, should be a last resort.”

The plea comes in the face of relentless pressure on the volunteer mountain rescue teams as the number of callouts rise, often from hillgoers who cannot or will not get themselves ‘unlost’.

The rescuer said: “Late starts; not carrying torches; failure to tell someone the party’s intentions or failure to leave a route card – in many ways these omissions are indicative of a reduction in responsibility.

“Getting caught by darkness or becoming cragfast is not, in itself, a justification for calling for help. In most circumstances getting caught or stuck without the ability to get down is the result of lack of anticipation, planning and responsibility.”

Jones’s piece reflects some of the frustration felt by rescuers who face a modern unwillingness to take control of one’s own fate – a key traditional tenet of mountaineering and fellwalking.

Quoting Frank Smythe’s 1941 book Over Welsh Hills, Mr Jones reminds hillgoers of the ethos of the mountains: “A sense of responsibility is, and must always be, the underlying note in mountaineering, the responsibility of the leader in the selection of a climb and the method in which it is carried out and the responsibility of each member of a party towards his companions.

“This sense of responsibility, more than anything else, promotes good comradeship and sound mountaineering.”

However, the Ogwen Valley rescuer said if you do need help, this should be summoned without delay, and he offers advice to those needing the help of a mountain rescue team.

  • Assess hazards and ensure the safety of all the party
  • Check casualties for airway, breathing and circulation and treat to the best of your ability
  • Protect the casualty from the cold and the environment
  • Confirm your location and note any grid reference and names of obvious features
  • Send for help; this should be done by ringing 999 and asking for police – mountain rescue
  • Know which police area you are in and ask for that force – one north Wales mountaineer managed to contact Dublin rescue services, 80 miles across the Irish Sea
  • Continue to care for casualties while you wait for help to arrive
  • Mark the site so it can be seen from the ground and the air
  • Tidy up the site and weigh down any markers such as bivvy bags which will be blown away or might hit those at the site in a helicopter’s downdraft
  • Keep a positive mental attitude and consider sending large parties to safety with a competent leader
  • Give consideration to approach routes and descent routes
  • Follow rescuers’ instructions once they arrive and be prepared to help them if they ask.

The full article can be seen on the British Mountaineering Council website.

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  3. Body of walker Daniel Adams found after search on Carnedd Dafydd in Ogwen Valley