The Best Weekend Since the Invention of Toast by Richard Quinn
On 22nd - 23rd January 2016, our six Probationary Members (2015-16) were put through their paces over a 24-hour period. This was to assess whether they met the required standards to join the team as full team members. Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team are delighted to report that all passed the assessment and did themselves proud.
Here’s what took place…from the Probies perspective.
You know that feeling when you go for a drive with some mates on a Friday night and then they dump you at an unknown location on a moor in the dark?
Until last weekend, neither did we. Throughout our intensive training programme, we have always had a full team member available for guidance. Well, as the two 4x4s drove off into the darkness, it became apparent that we were on our own.
Considering that we'd all re-packed our kit at least three times that day, the interesting thing was the total lack of nerves: we simply did what we were trained to do, got the maps out, fixed our location and completed a radio check. Over the course of our training we've become a close group of friends and so we knew that we could all do it, and that brought a great degree of confidence.
Five minutes later we had our first tasking and with our call sign ‘Calder One Zero’ we set off on a testing night navigational exercise that ended with a successful search for a casualty (thanks Keith) who was found nestled in some crags, and who we then walked off the moor. Not every search that the team does has a happy ending and our next tasking was one such example, which involved setting up a crime scene and calling for police support.
After that, at about midnight, we headed to the bunk barn for what can only fairly be described as fantastic pie of the gods and the Mountain Rescue equivalent of the Four Yorkshireman Sketch. I'm not sure what the collective noun for Mountain Rescue members is (possibly a Dave?), but if you gather some together and ask them about the conditions on their probie assessment, it escalates quickly to the point that its a wonder anyone survived. The consensus view is that we were very lucky with the weather and in fairness, the moonlit views of the moorland were fantastic. As an aside, and further proof that the condition is contagious, anyone who thinks we had it too easy is very welcome to check the weather we encountered on Croagh Patrick!
After food, we arranged some camping trips while the excitement wore off and then it was time to attempt some shut-eye. We were all convinced that we'd be turfed out of bed between ten and twenty minutes after getting in, so it was a bit like being six years old on Christmas Eve, desperately trying to nod off while simultaneously wide awake. And then there was the snoring. Snoring? No, that simply doesn't do it justice. It sounded more like hungry dogs barking. The culprit will remain nameless but suffice to say, several people left the room to sleep on the kitchen floor!
The next day, we were up, fed and out the door for the next tasking, this time searching a riverbank for a missing walker. After 30 minutes or so, the walker was located holding on to a fence next to the river. 30 seconds or so later, he'd launched himself into the water! The swiftwater rescue trained members of our group quickly extracted the casualty from the water and began treatment for a severe leg break and hypothermia. Because of the severity of his injuries, the primary survey indicated a hasty trip to hospital was required, so we radioed for the “exercise air ambulance”.
We were then notified that the actual air ambulance was in the air and en-route to our location. One team member was tasked with identifying a landing site, whilst everyone else negotiated a tricky stretcher carry and haul up the steep ground. The fact that the Yorkshire Air Ambulance took part in our assessment is testament to the fantastic and necessarily close working/training relationship CVSRT has with YAA.
Our next tasking was an afternoon of macro and micro-navigation around the moorland, which ended with the traditional chat with our Team Leader, Ben Carter. If you want to know what he said, then you'll have to apply to join the team. It's not a chat any of us will quickly forget.
Finally, we were tasked with a crag rescue – part of the assessment we had all been expecting. Ben also accompanied us to the crag rescue.
The thing is, regardless of the variety of incidents we attend as a team, and despite us spending six months as probies attending call-outs mentored by full team members etc. it’s still the crag rescues that quicken the heart. That’s not to say other jobs are less serious or potentially life threatening to the casualty. Maybe it's because, with almost all the other incidents, an injury has already occured. Whilst with a crag rescue, there is still an opportunity to prevent a catastrophic injury from taking place.
For this particular scenario, the casualty had fallen and was located on a ledge approx. 20m up the crag face. He had sustained a suspected broken leg in the process. The probies divided into two teams of three members, with one team heading to the base of the crag to make verbal contact with the casualty.
The essential rescue kit list was requested from the control vehicle and then we made ourselves safe using our personal protection equipment to approach the crag top to identify a suitable anchor points for a rescues rope system.
The fell party kit, ropes and stretcher arrived at the casualty site and a rope system was rigged to lower a probie member over the edge to extract the casualty. The casualty, (Wally) was safely transferred to the stretcher and lowered to the ground. Everyone involved performed really well. Then, just like that, it was over. We’d finished our Probie Assessment.
After a thorough debrief of the crag rescue, Team Leader Ben Carter presented all six probie members with our Full Team Membership cards. We were in! What a feeling!
A year of hard graft and a steep learning curve had culminated in a brilliant weekend and there we were, full team members, sitting by a fire and surrounded by friends. There really is no feeling like it. Team membership isn't given out, you have to earn it and it remains both an honour and a privilege, particularly during our 50th Anniversary year.
The Probies of 2015-16 would like to thank every member of Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team for your guidance, support and friendship, with particular thanks to Al Day, our Training Officer, and Neil Anderson who assisted with our training. Also particular thanks go to everyone involved in our assessment weekend, which was a huge effort. Thanks also to Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team for playing major roles in our training and development.
Lastly, and most importantly, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank our friends and families for the continued support and understanding when plans get cancelled at short-notice because the pager goes off…we literally couldn't do it without you. Thank you!
Richard Quinn, Dave Howarth, Gary Smith, Jacques Crowther, Einion Jones and Mark Wilson.
Probationary Members (2015-16)