Stuart King with his award. Photo: NNPMRT

Stuart King with his award. Photo: NNPMRT

A Northumberland mountain rescuer has been honoured for his part in helping save a man’s life in a climbing incident in Scotland.

Stuart King, a member of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team has been awarded a testimonial on vellum by the Royal Humane Society.

Mr King, of Acklington, Northumberland, was winter climbing with three friends on Creag Meagaidh in Glen Spean in February last year when the incident happened.

Conditions were cold but clear as the group began an ascent of a steep iced gully. They met another group who were climbing ahead of them and passed them on the way up the gully

Mr King, an experienced mountaineer, said: “I can remember it was bitterly cold.” Part way up their climb, they heard a cry of alarm from the lower group and looked down to see one of the climbers tumbling down the gully at great speed, unable to use his ice-axe to arrest his fall.

Mr King said: “One of the climbers must have slipped and started falling back down the gully. He ricocheted off the gully walls as he fell, and being without a helmet, we didn’t expect him to survive.” The man eventually came to a stop back at the bottom of the gully, cut off from his friends.

“Our group made some quick decisions.” Mr King said. “A couple of the lads began to climb out of the gully to get a better phone signal so that we could contact local mountain rescue and then head down a safer route, back to the bottom of the gully.”

However, knowing they had no rescue equipment with them, and that the helicopter was being dispatched but would be some time, Mr King realised that if the man was going to survive, that time was critical.

He took the decision to climb back down the icy gully on his own, descending as quickly as possible 300m on steep ice without the aid of a rope. Given the steepness of the gully and the nature of the ice, this was a perilous prospect and not without considerable risk.

“I realised that if I fell here, I would become a casualty and compound the problem, but I also knew that time was critical for this man.” So he continued his difficult climb down the ice.

He quickly reached the man and immediately gave first aid. The man had suffered major trauma to his head and torso, breaking his wrist, fracturing his ribs and damaging his ankle.

The Northumbrian rescuer opened and maintained his airway and then attended to his wounds. He removed the man’s rucksack which was restricting his breathing. Given the extent of the trauma, without a maintained airway and insulation the man may well have died.

Shortly afterwards one of Mr King’s companions also reached the scene and together they got the man into a survival shelter and worked together to make the man as comfortable as possible.

Once the rescue helicopter arrived at the scene, Mr King and his friends helped the winchman load the man into the helicopter and he was flown to hospital where, after a considerable time and a number of major operations, he has made a good recovery.

“It was a real team effort. Without the other lads calling for help and also coming down, he would not have survived. I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of all of us,” Mr King said.

The award was presented to Mr King with his family present in his garden by Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue team leader Iain Nixon.

Mr Nixon said: “The presentation was on behalf of the High Sheriff of Northumberland, Tom Fairfax, who, because of Covid regulations, was not able to be present.

Instead, the High Sheriff and the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Winton Keenen both sent video recordings congratulating Mr King. The mountaineer, author and speaker Nigel Vardy also sent the rescuer a message. All three praised Mr King’s selflessness and his dedication to saving lives.

“I am incredibly proud to have Stuart and his three colleagues in our mountain rescue team.” Mr Nixon said. “While we recognise that it was a team effort in helping to keep the casualty alive and call in the emergency services, without Stuart’s incredibly brave climb down, it’s highly likely that he would not have survived. He thoroughly deserves this award.”

Russell Emmerson. Photo: NNPMRT

Russell Emmerson. Photo: NNPMRT

Two other team members were also honoured by the High Sheriff of Northumberland for their work during the coronavirus pandemic. Russell Emmerson and Jamie Pattison received certificates of thanks from Mr Fairfax.

Mr Emmerson, until recently one of the deputy team leaders, received his certificate in recognition for the significant amount of time he has put in to ensuring the team’s vehicles and equipment remained operational throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, which has included decontaminating and quarantining equipment.

“I am surprised and delighted by the recognition.” He said. “We work as part of a team and my part has been to make sure that everything behind the scenes keeps working.”

Jamie Pattison. Photo: NNPMRT

Jamie Pattison. Photo: NNPMRT

Mr Pattison, also a deputy team leader and medical officer, was praised for his efforts during the pandemic in ensuring that Covid-secure protocols have been implemented by all team members and putting PPE procedures in place across the team.

Mr Pattison, who is a frontline NHS paramedic and has worked throughout the pandemic, said: “I am extremely proud to be part of our mountain rescue team. The team has risen to the challenges that Covid has presented and continues to do a fantastic job.”

Team leader Iain Nixon added: “It’s always hard to single out individuals, but in this case I know I speak for all of our volunteers when I say how pleased we are that Russell and Jamie have been recognised for their efforts over the past nine months.”

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. Touching the Void climber Simon Yates will deliver talk for Northumberland rescuers