On Monday night Lochaber MRT had to rescue four very poorly equipped people from Ben Nevis in blizzard conditions. It got a lot of media attention, the BBC for example reported it as Tourists in trainers rescued in Ben Nevis blizzard.
This got a lot of attention from the public too and there were negative comments about the people they rescued all over social media including, I must confess, from me on my personal facebook account.
Lochaber MRT have now written about that criticism. We think this deserves wider circulation as it applies everywhere were people are walking in the hills. This is what they wrote:
Thanks to everyone for their messages of support to the Team - very much appreciated. The incident has created a huge amount of media/public/government and international interest and comment.
The casualties admit that they made a significant error of judgement and are extremely sorry for the results of their actions. The guys were just members of the public who perhaps were unaware of what they were getting into. Not being from the UK and with very limited English, a lot of the information available to mountaineers and hill walkers would not have been accessible to them, so perhaps there is an element of mitigation in respect of their actions, clothing and lack of equipment.
At present money from the Scottish Government is channelled, via Sportscotland, quite rightly so, into the Avalanche Information Service and for training and education through centres like Glenmore Lodge and agencies such as Mountaineering Scotland. Most of this will be targeted at people who are either engaged in the sport or have an interest in taking it up. Perhaps more thought needs to be given into how to inform the general public/casual tourist about how dangerous our small mountains are and how severe our weather can get and how it will catch-out the unwary and uninformed at any time of the year.
Unfortunately it takes incidents like yesterday's to raise the profile in the media and the message has definitely got out. So there is a positive from the incident. Therefore, let us just cut the guys a little bit of slack. For those who call for charging and insurance for mountaineers/hill walkers, be careful for what ask for, as where do you stop, insurance for fishing, rugby, football all of which have more incidents and injuries than mountaineering.
Mountain rescuers are all mountaineers who volunteer their services at absolutely minimal cost to the public purse. Insurance would lead to a professional service, which, for yesterdays incident would have required about 30 full time paid people on one single shift plus equipment etc to have been able carry out and then you have the admin, health and safety, bean counter et al - all funded by tax payer. Leave as is, as we have a world class voluntary mountain rescue service which delivers via public donations.
To ensure it is sufficiently funded, we need public donations so please give to a mountain rescue team. Not all mountain rescue is about mountains and many teams outwith the Highlands, and even those in the Highlands, do provide resilience cover at times of severe weather/flooding and when the full time agencies cannot cope with scale of an incident. This is also significantly funded by donations for mountain rescue but we are sure our supporters would not grudge some of their money going back to the communities which we live in and allow access to our mountains and countryside.
Finally, we would like to thank the guys from yesterday's rescue for making the donation shown in the picture attached. These were very young guys who without any prompting made a very generous gesture which is very much appreciated. Not everyone rescued appreciates that we are not full time or not paid to be at their beck and call.
Photos copyright Lochaber MRT
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