The review looks back at a busy 2015 for rescuers. Main photo: Edale MRT

The review looks back at a busy 2015 for rescuers. Main photo: Edale MRT

The number of mountain rescue incidents in England and Wales increased last year, bucking a trend of declining callouts.

Figures returned to 2010 levels, with a large increase in mountain biking accidents.

Fatalities also increased, with 39 people losing their lives in mountain incidents south of the border in 2015.

The numbers are revealed in Mountain Rescue England and Wales’s review of the year, which also details the huge number of unpaid hours spent by volunteer team members, including 14,808 person-hours devoted to helping during last December’s floods in the North of England.

There were only 15 days last year when a mountain rescue team was not called out in England and Wales.

Overall figures for 2015 were about 10 per cent higher than the previous year, with teams in the Peak District responding to 20 per cent more incidents. A smaller number of deaths generally in the outdoors was offset by a high number of fatalities on the Lake District’s mountains.

Teams in the Lake District and north Wales also had a disproportionate increase in callouts to mountain biking casualties, almost three times the level experienced in 2014.

England and Wales’s volunteer mountain rescuers devoted collectively more than 92,000 hours to the service, excluding their training and administration, searching, rescuing and helping in civil incidents such as the floods.

There were 1,179 mountain incidents, involving 700 injured people in 2015. 1,326 people were helped on the hills. Non-mountain incidents involving the MRTs numbered 463, and there were 34 fatalities among them.

MREW chairman Mike France addresses the financial constraints facing the statutory bodies such as police, fire and ambulance crews. He says in the review: “My concern with all these thoughts is this: is someone, somewhere thinking the voluntary sector could pick up some of this work?

“Our control and command systems mean we can call other teams from across the local region, or teams from across the country to help if incidents escalate.

“You will have seen this unfold on the news with the flooding in the North of England throughout December.

“Our members are trained to search and we do it well but, unlike the other services, our volunteer members only have so much time to give, and mountain rescue doesn’t pay the personal bills.

“But if asked, of course our members will look for the despondent as well as giving their time to help the climber of missing walker. Apart from being well trained and highly skilled, our volunteers have big hearts and will carry out all these tasks when they can.”

The review also considers whether mobile phones are a force for good or bad in the outdoors, looks back on the service of the military Sea Kings and their work with mountain rescue teams, details of a search dog’s tragic find on Helvellyn and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Ogwen Valley rescue team.

There is also, of course, a long look at the hundreds of volunteers’ efforts in the December floods.

The annual review was produced by Judy Whiteside and Sally Seed and can be obtained via the MREW website.

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