Northumberland Mountain Rescue Service medical officer Jamie Pattison with a stranded vehicle. Photo: Northumberland National Park MRT

Northumberland Mountain Rescue Service medical officer Jamie Pattison with a stranded vehicle. Photo: Northumberland National Park MRT

Volunteer mountain rescuers in Northumberland responded to 40 incidents over the past three days, as the Beast from the East brought severe conditions to the area.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team answered requests to help stranded motorists, including 17 people stuck on a road 1,370ft up on the Scottish border.

The teams, who work together on callouts, also helped transport patients, attended road collisions and supported emergency services with their mountain rescue 4×4 ambulances.

Throughout the whole of 2017, the two teams dealt with 66 incidents, a record number for the volunteers.

Over a 60-hour period this week, the two Northumberland teams operated a shift system to ensure 24-hour availability of their services.

Some motorists helped by the teams had been stranded in their vehicles for more than 24 hours.

A spokesperson for Northumberland National Park MRT said: “On Thursday at 1pm the teams were called to rescue eight vehicles and 17 individuals stuck at Carter Bar, the England-Scotland border on the A68. Carter Bar sits at an altitude of 418m above sea level.

“Two mountain rescue 4×4 off-road-capable ambulances made their way to the Carter Bar road summit, at times having to manually dig the snowdrifts to clear a route in horrendous conditions. On route, the teams stopped and helped several motorists who were stranded, moving them to Otterburn.

“While one of the team members walked over border into Scotland to make sure there was not anyone trapped on the northern side, the remaining team members began checking the passengers and preparing to evacuate them.

The teams' vehicles head up to Carter Bar. Photo: Northumberland National Park MRT

The teams' vehicles head up to Carter Bar. Photo: Northumberland National Park MRT

“There were two families of four, one of which were from the Netherlands. The motorists were well equipped but clearly not anticipating such horrendous conditions. The team had to battle through snowdrifts which were over 6ft high in places, with a windchill as low as 20C.”

A similar operation was undertaken on the Scottish side of the road by the Border Search and Rescue Unit.

The spokesperson said: “It took the team in their two mountain rescue 4×4 ambulances 10 trips before everyone was safely evacuated to Byrness Youth Hostel where the hostel manager very kindly took everyone in, provided everyone with tea and toast and accommodated them.”

All the vehicle occupants were brought to safety by 6pm and the rescue teams were then called out to another incident.

The spokesperson said: “The public are still advised to only travel if it is absolutely essential, travelling only on open routes. Do not drive past ‘road closed’ signs. As the region’s roads are cleared, the public are reminded to check the weather forecast prior to travelling and ensure they have spare food, water and warm clothing in the vehicle. The risk of snow drifting from the fields onto previously cleared re-opened roads remains real.

“With the weekend approaching, many will be wanting to enjoy the snow on the hills nearby where driving is not required. Unless you have the experience to judge avalanche risk, please avoid slopes with an angle of 30-45 degrees.

“Slopes of this angle that are loaded with snow can present an avalanche risk, and can be fatal.”

The teams estimated they have spent £2,000 on fuel during the past few days carrying out rescues. They rely on donations and charitable grants to provide their service.

Donations can be made online to the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team.

The spokesperson added: “All members of mountain rescue are volunteers, and thanks must be given to the families and employers of those volunteers who, without question 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, give members the flexibility to respond to incidents with little to no notice.”

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