RAF crew members and rescue team volunteers enjoy their mountain-top dinner. Photo: OVMRO

RAF crew members and rescue team volunteers enjoy their mountain-top dinner. Photo: OVMRO

Members of a Snowdonia mountain rescue team shared a formal dinner with RAF colleagues – on top of a 3,000ft peak.

Walkers reaching the summit of Tryfan yesterday were surprised to find the groups celebrating the end of their working relationship with an ‘extreme dine’ at the top of the mountain yesterday, Saturday.

The poignant event marked both the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation’s 50th anniversary and the impending end of search and rescue operations for the crew of C Flight, 22 Squadron, at RAF Valley on Anglesey, which will hand over the role to civilian Coastguard helicopters in July.

About 30 members of the rescue team carried tables, chairs and food to the 918m (3,010ft) summit of the distinctive peak that has provided a steady stream of rescue customers over the years. Wives and partners joined them for the black-tie event on Tryfan, and there was even an interlude to conduct a real rescue.

OVMRO spokesman Chris Lloyd said: “Members of Ogwen Valley mountain rescue have enjoyed a close working relationship with the crews of C Flight, 22 Squadron, RAF Valley, since the first casualty was winched on board a yellow helicopter in April 1969.

“Since then, the crews of the Westland Whirlwinds, the Westland Wessex and for the last 30 years, the Sea Kings, have carried numerous rescues in Snowdonia and elsewhere. They have saved lives and saved a lot of hard manual labour to rescue casualties high up on the mountains or in difficult and dangerous places.

“Earlier this year C Flight celebrated its 10,000th rescue mission since its formation at RAF Valley in 1955.

“With the going down of the sun after a long and successful relationship, crews from the flight were invited to join members of OVMRO to an ‘extreme dine’ as part of the 50th anniversary of OVMRO.”

The day also saw the visit to the team’s base for a familiarisation flight of a new Sikorsky S-92 operated by Bristow under the Coastguard’s control. The new aircraft and crews will take over search and rescue responsibility in the area on 1 July.

RAF crew members experience the dizzy heights of Adam and Eve, under the watchful eye of a search and rescue dog. Photo: OVMRO

OVMRO members experience the dizzy heights of the Adam and Eve monoliths on the summit, under the watchful eye of a search and rescue dog. Photo: OVMRO

Mr Lloyd said: “As the shiny new Bristow helicopter left Oggie Base at about 3pm, a call came in reporting that a local man in his 50s and part of a well organised hillwalking group, had pulled a leg muscle whilst descending the South Ridge of Tryfan.

“Assisted by his partner and other members of the group, he tried to continue his descent but found the pain too great. OVMRO was called. A hasty party was preparing to deploy when the familiar yellow Sea King from 22 Squadron flew into the valley and was able to winch the casualty and his partner from the mountainside and deposit them at Oggie Base.

“His partner was taken to collect their car so that she could take the casualty to a local hospital.

“Meanwhile, the remainder of the casualty’s party made their way down the mountain, passing heavily laden mountain rescue troops heading up Tryfan. They were not carrying the usual heavy rescue equipment but, tables, chairs, stoves and dinner.”

Staff from the Conwy Falls Cafe had prepared a slap-up dinner of Welsh lamb, with fresh vegetables, mint sauce and gravy followed by ‘Ogwen’ Mess with fresh summer fruits, and a cheese course complete with fresh grapes and coffee with personalised after-dinner mint chocolates. A local confectioner had made the chocolates with the outline of Tryfan on their face.

Mr Lloyd said: “Being a formal dinner, the Ogwen troops were in black tie and the RAF were in mess dress complete with medals.

“The ladies wore long dresses – though they needed a fleece or two to protect them from the cool breeze.

“After grace, the diners enjoyed a good dinner. A couple of surprised hillwalkers topped out on to the supposed quiet evening summit, to find the formal dinner party. They were welcomed to the feast and liquid refreshment.

“After prizes for the most imaginative table, complete with candelabra, the tables were cleared and all was packed up once more.

“It was then the end of the day, the end of dinner and the end of an era.”

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