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BBQ's by Loch Tay, High Ropes... and a chopper for Mountain Rescue

Quality time on the shore

I have had many great visits to the little section of shoreline on Loch Tay that is just a few minutes walk from my house recently. I have been down in the mornings for some quiet times, evenings for fires and BBQs and sometimes I take my camera to snap a few pictures of this lovely little spot.

The scenery here has many moods: all of them are interesting and each has its own particular challenges when it comes to capturing them through the lens of a camera. I recently purchased a cheap filter set to help add some motion blur and drama to my pictures, so watch this space for some experimental photos.

It is great to be able to enjoy the beach with others and share food and fun times together, but I do also enjoy being the only person there to witness the fantastic vistas that God puts in front of me.

High Ropes Training

On Monday, Steven Saddler, our technical adviser for all things ropes and mountains, came to watch us in action. We talked over scenarios, risk assessments and some of the finer details of our high ropes and crate climbing sessions.

It was a timely visit as it was a gloriously sunny day and we just happened to have three of the Trainee Instructors here on placement to act as climbing guinea pigs. It was an interesting morning and a great opportunity to question some of the “norms” and think outside of the box.

Mountain Rescue

My last section is a difficult one. Phil and I recently attended a call-out with the Mountain Rescue Team.

When you get the text for a call-out it conjures up so many contradictory emotions. On one part you are excited to go out and do something other than the mundane evening you had planned.

Then you realise that you are needed because someone else is having a rubbish day… But you have trained for this, so why shouldn’t you put it in to practice?

You are going to get to see your friends, but not for a beer, but what is likely to be a difficult and strenuous ordeal.

You don’t know how long it might last or what the outcome is likely to be, but you go and you go with pace, concern and adrenaline all surging through your body.

After quickly grabbing my bag and shoving various bits of kit into it, Phil and I head for Killin and the waiting team Land Rover. We are soon at the scene of the incident, joining the police and ambulance services, thanks to the blue flashing lights on the roof of the Landy.

The situation is developing with a helicopter flying around and searching for the casualty and so we are tasked with our first challenge: “Hurry up and wait!” This phrase is used fairly regularly on call-outs. It can be a difficult task but is necessary to make sure that the whole team are tasked appropriately and not wasting our time with unnecessary movements and missions.

It soon transpired that the helicopter wanted to pick up a team member to help them search known accident black spots and so Nat got himself ready to go.

The landing spot needed to be marked so someone asked “Has anyone got any flares?” which was quickly met with “Nah. I gave up flares in the 70s!” It was good to see that humour still has a place in these difficult situations.

Sometime later, the helicopter was on its way back to pick up three more members of the team to drop them high up on the mountain for the initial search. I stood trying to look as ready as I could and was almost in disbelief when Teddy hit me with his radio aerial and said “two”. Phil was number one and Lisa was number three. Off we went towards the noise of oscillating blades.

Whilst walking towards the field where the chopper was waiting for us, I quickly tried to recover the online training I had done a few months previously on what to do in a helicopter! Lisa reassured me that I would be told whatever I needed to know by the crew.

Phil and I approached on either side of Lisa with arms interlocked so that she didn’t get blown away. I now know why people bend over when approaching helicopters; it’s because the downdraught from the rotors is so strong one cannot simply saunter up to the helicopter to get in!

Once on-board we strapped in, the door was shut and we took off – my first ever time in a helicopter!

After a few minutes of flight I caught the eye of the on-board medic and indicated, as best as I could, that this was my first time in a helicopter. He clearly mentioned it through the intercom attached to his helmet as the next thing I know BOTH pilots turn around to give me the thumbs up! Phil later told me that he didn’t want it to be my first and last flight and so wished they had taken it in turns to turn around.

We were soon several hundred metres higher up the mountain and about to start the search for a suitable drop-off point. The two crew members in the back opened the doors to enable them to have a clearer view of the ground and keep an eye on the wheels and rotor clearances. The draught that came through the cabin was bitterly, bitterly, cold.

The aircraft stopped moving and we knew it was time to say goodbye and disembark from our lift up the mountain. One by one we stepped out and hit the deck, grabbing hold of the next person as they made contact with the ground.

An increase in noise and wind and the helicopter rose up, up and away to collect the next group of team members from the roadside.

What an exhilarating experience. I was so giddy and excited, but it was now time to get serious and stuck in to searching the ground ahead of us.

Several hours later we were making our way off the mountain having endured super strong winds, driving rain and searching, with nothing to show for it, except discovering some foot prints.

We were all soaked through and I could feel the puddles sloshing around inside my boots. Zach was trying to figure out why, in Scotland, water doesn’t seem to obey the laws of physics? Even though the ground is at least 45° it still retains all the water that lands on it!

With the rest of the team being stood down for the night, Phil and I headed for home and some warmth. I hung everything up to dry and carefully made myself a cup of tea (I was still shivering!) before crawling into bed just after midnight.

What an eventful evening but with the main aim still unfulfilled. Fortunately the next day, whilst I was at work, the news came through that the casualty had been found alive but was on his way to hospital to treat his injuries.

I have told you about my excitement to experience a helicopter ride, but that was one small part of the whole rescue scenario and as I said at the start of this section, a whole bag of mixed emotions manifests itself when you are called out.

I am always stunned at the speed that so many resources and people gather to help someone in their time of need and the level of professionalism displayed by the volunteers and those employed in the emergency services. I am honoured to be able to work alongside them and be getting to know them as my friends. I look forward to spending more time with them but also I don’t.

Like I said earlier, when we gather it’s because someone else is having a bad da

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