I can’t see anything. It should be pitch black, but I’m surrounded with a damp, grey haze. My torchlight bounces straight off the mist. I’m enclosed in a 10m sphere of visibility. But I have to focus. Following my bearing, I pace from tuft of grass to tuft of grass, determined not to be led astray by the weather – because tonight, it really counts. If I can just hold it together for 5-7 hours… if I can just do this, I’m in.
My journey with Mountain Rescue started almost a year and a half ago. But I guess, in some ways, it started even earlier than that. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time out on the hill: walking, camping, scrambling. We had it drummed into us from day one.
If it gets really bad, call 999 and ask for the police, then Mountain Rescue.
To a young girl who spent a lot of time outdoors, Mountain Rescue were like superheroes. No matter what happened, they’d come and save you. If things went wrong, they’d be there – however lost and broken you were, however bad the weather. Luckily I was never involved in an incident but, as I got older, I had friends who were. It was those elusive people in the red jackets who brought them home again.After university, I was decided. I wanted to have a go. An ad came up in the local paper and I jumped on it, even though I hadn’t actually moved back home yet. I’d never seen them advertise for trainees before, so it felt like now or never. I got in contact with the training officer and put my name down.
But Mountain Rescue isn’t quite like other volunteering. They don’t just snap you up because you’ve put yourself forward. Oh no. We had a selection process, then a six week trial, then a logbook that takes most people about a year to complete. If you get to this point, it’s quite common for half of the other trainees in your intake to have dropped out. Bearing in mind that there’s a maximum of 6 new trainees to start with, it’s a pretty tough process. People say it’s like taking on a second job – one that requires you to spend hours working in the dark, in miserable weather, without getting paid.
If you get most of the logbook finished then, by approval of the committee, you’re allowed on the call out list. Your hard work has paid off and you’re now on call 24/7. Yes, even when you’re having dinner with your family or about to step into the shower… You can spend weeks on edge, waiting for your phone to go off, waiting to go on a live call out – even if you’re only allowed to observe and carry things. I only had to wait three days and I still couldn’t quite believe it.
But the final test, the one that makes you a team member, is still to come. Not every team has the same process, but we take a final navigation assessment. It’s overnight in the winter and, luckily for me, was in the worst weather conditions we’d seen all year. It was almost like they’d ordered it in especially. But I guess, if it was easy, then that coveted red jacket wouldn’t mean nearly as much. You leave the RV nervous and, if you make it round successfully, come back as an equal.
When I started out as a trainee, I had no idea how much of my life Mountain Rescue would take. It sounds ridiculous to say, but there is so much more to it than being on call all day every day. We train every week, but sometimes there’s special extra training; water rescue, helicopters, advanced casualty care… plus fundraising and community events on top of that! It can be hectic, but I love it and being on the hill most days in a week sometimes can’t be a bad thing. Everybody says it: you get back so much more than you put in.
So am I a superhero yet? No, I wouldn’t say so. My fifteen year old self would be very proud, but when most of the team are double your age it’s hard to feel experienced at anything. But I’ve helped to save lives and that’s a pretty good feeling.
Maybe get back to me in 20 years and I might have a red cape to go with the red jacket.
If you want to ask her any questions on Mountain Rescue then you can do so in the below places!Twitter
www.travellinglines.comIf you want to get involved with Mountain Monday then click this link for all information!