Record-breaking year for mountain rescue teams

Rescues were done in waist-high snow.
Rescues were done in waist-high snow.

Last year was the busiest on record for Northumberland National Park and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Teams, with over a 100% increase in the number of incidents, compared to 2017.

At the request of Northumbria Police and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), the teams responded to 140 incidents across their operational area of Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team members meet Prince Charles.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team members meet Prince Charles.

These incidents included searches for lost walkers; rescues of climbers and mountain bikers; searches for individuals at risk who were missing from home in more urban areas; and dealing with the impact of extreme weather events.

The last incident of 2018 was late afternoon on Sunday, December 30, for a male walker in his early 70s who had sustained a lower leg injury and was unable to bear weight. The three-hour incident at Selby Cove, near Simonside, involved the teams evacuating the walker on a stretcher over rough terrain to a forest track before he was handed over to the ambulance service. A total of 23 members were involved in the rescue.

Notable incidents over the year included:

l February/March – 46 incidents in four days during the Beast from the East, including rescuing stranded motorists and urgent patient transfers to hospital.

The team in action.

The team in action.

l April – a cross-border night search with Border Search & Rescue Unit for an overdue walker, who had turned 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

l May – another cross-border night search for a family, with a young child, who had been mountain biking and reported themselves stranded at Yearning Hall Saddle refuge.

l July – rescue of a seriously injured climber from Crag Lough on Hadrian’s Wall, working with the Great North Air Ambulance and HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter.

l December – rescue of an injured van driver from the River Breamish after their van had come off the road into the river, working alongside Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service and NEAS.

The teams were called to 46 incidents during the Beast from the East.

The teams were called to 46 incidents during the Beast from the East.

In total, the two teams, which are made up entirely of volunteers, expended over 4,800 hours saving lives.

Iain Nixon, team leader of the Northumberland National Park team, said: “The Beast from the East had a significant part to play in the unprecedented rise in the number of incidents in 2018.

“However, even without the Beast from the East, the teams responded to 94 incidents over the year, 28 more than the previous year.

“The dedication and commitment shown by all of our volunteers has been tremendous and I’d like to thank them, their families and friends, and employers for their ongoing support.”

A stretcher rescue in the Northumberland hills.

A stretcher rescue in the Northumberland hills.

It costs around £80,000 to run both teams each year and that excludes the ‘cost’ of volunteers’ time. If the latter is added in, it would be £860,000, representing a significant saving to the public purse.

The teams can only continue to provide their highly professional, emergency service through the generous support of the public. Donations can be made via: www.justgiving.com/nnpmrt and www.notmrt.org.uk/donate

Cars stranded in thick snow.

Cars stranded in thick snow.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team with Northumbria Police Chief Constable Winton Keenan.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team with Northumbria Police Chief Constable Winton Keenan.