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Edale Mountain Rescue Team - Heroes in High Places!

Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007

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Edale Mountain Rescue Team – Heroes in High Wild Places

The distinctive yellow Sea King helicopter came in low over the escarpment, the noise from its rotors being intermittently snatched away from the ears of the helmeted figures huddled below at the base of the rocky crag, by the howling gale which blew from the north west.

Half way up the face of the escarpment, perched precariously on a windswept rocky ledge, two more helmeted and specially trained mountaineering medics were attending to an injured fallen climber.

Fifty feet above, the pilot expertly edged the Sea King into position, whilst from it’s belly a rope was lowered for attachment to the waiting stretcher harness and within minutes the injured climber was winched up and was safely on his way to hospital.

A scene from a new adventure film being shot on location in Derbyshire?

A rescue exercise by the fully trained professionals of our armed forces?

No – this scenario is perhaps just one of around a hundred such `incidents’ to which the Edale Mountain Rescue Team are called every year; of course all do not require the use of an RAF Sea King helicopter – sometimes the red East Midlands Air Ambulance is scrambled instead!

`The Edale Mountain Rescue Team is one of seven covering the entire Peak District'

The Edale Mountain Rescue Team is one of seven covering the entire Peak District, with others based at Buxton, Derby, Glossop, Kinder (based at Hayfield), Oldham and Woodhead. The area covered my EMRT ranges from Bleaklow in the north to Matlock in the south, and from the climbing edges in the east to Buxton in the west; a high, wild, spectacular and dramatic landscape which can be very inhospitable and dangerous, especially in the winter months.

This varied terrain is EMRT’s working environment, and although the majority of incidents do not require the use of anything as dramatic as a helicopter, they all do require the utilisation of expensive equipment and the deployment of a specially trained, highly efficient and well co-ordinated team of experts who are dedicated to responding rapidly to emergency callouts within the Peak District National Park.

One would anticipate such expertise coming at a heavy cost, with high financial rewards for the well-trained operatives, yet amazingly, the lifesaving team of intrepid rescuers providing such a vital and valuable service twenty four hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year – are all volunteers!

At his Bakewell home, I asked Team Leader Trevor Lawton about the prerequisites for team memberhip:

Well, firstly I think you have to be slightly deranged, he told me, (no doubt with daunting recollections of being dragged from his bed in the early hours on bitterly cold January mornings to search in blizzard conditions for missing walkers!) Secondly you need to be fit, with a current first-aid certificate and some mountaineering or climbing experience - thirdly you need your own transport, telephone, specialist clothing and equipment, and finally you need to be available. Bags of enthusiasm and a sense of humour helps too”, he added.

Current EMRT Secretary is former Baslow G.P. Dr. David Dalrymple Smith, recently retired Medical Officer and a veteran EMRT member with 25 years experience, who recalls being recruited by the local bobby.

He explained:

`We currently have around fifty members, both men and women, about forty of whom are active and on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they come from all walks of life. For instance we have several insurance agents, two solicitors, six doctors, a dentist – and even two A & E nurses! We also have three fully trained dog-handlers who are part of the wider Search & Rescue Dog Association, and all members are trained in advanced first-aid, crag work and navigation, and have a thorough working knowledge of all equipment, thus we are readily equipped to handle any emergency call-out incident’.

I learned that the team owns and maintains two fully-equipped operational Land Rovers and a specially equipped and adapted trailer which doubles as control H.Q. during operations. Each incident begins with a 999 call requesting the assistance of police and mountain rescue and giving the location and nature of the incident. The police then call the Mountain Rescue Key Contact duty controller. There are twelve Controllers covering the Peak District who operate a fortnightly rota system, each having the Key Contact number in turn. Every member has a pager, and responds to a call from the local controller, and the whole operation is mobilised in a matter of minutes. Many of the incidents are dealt with by a special Snatch Squad, a fast-response rescue unit made up from a small nucleus of members from both Edale and Buxton Mountain Rescue Teams.

`This close liaison between the two teams ensures casualties are dealt with quickly and efficiently within the teams’ operational areas’, said EMRT Chairman, Neil Roden.

`The call outs we attend are varied in both the nature of the casualty’s injuries and the type of terrain on which they occur, he added, it is not uncommon for us to assist a walker with leg injuries on Kinder in the morning and then be called to the climbing edges to rescue a badly injured climber later the same day. In addition we also assist Police Forces from surrounding areas in urban searches outside the Peak Park, where our expertise is highly valued, and our dog-handlers have assisted in searches as far afield as Norfolk, Milton Keynes and Wales’.

That such a comprehensive and efficiently run operation, which is not only a vital and valuable resource for the Peak District, but for the common good of all who come within the framework of it’s boundaries, visitor and resident alike, should be entirely self-funding, is quite incredible. The very fact that EMRT has operated for years from an inadequate and makeshift base in a small garage-cum-office in the Hope Valley - albeit kindly provided by Blue Circle Cement - speaks volumes for the urgent need of funds.

Neil Roden says, “To maintain and improve the quality and efficiency of the service we provide, teamwork remains of paramount importance. The team has to be trained in a wide variety of skills and supported by the best equipment. This all takes time and money. These are dedicated and committed people who spend many hours both training and on rescues, often in difficult conditions and at unsociable times. Almost all running costs are self financed or met through donations from the public; we are not funded by any local authority or central government and we have no income from any external source”.

With demands for Search & Rescue growing EMRT were finding it difficult to make time for the fundraising and support work required in order to maintain their high standards, and so in November 2000 a support group called `Friends in High Places’ was launched and membership (which costs £3 per year) is ever expanding.

Neil Roden paid tribute to FiHP, saying;

`The group has been extremely successful with many innovative ideas for fundraising and other areas of support, and now with their help and raised public awareness - and perhaps with some support from corporate sponsorship - our aim is to provide a much needed new, purpose-built headquarters’.

The Chairman revealed that `current negotiations are focussed on an area of land in Bamford and the possibilities for a community project in partnership with Bamford & Thornhill Recreation Committee for the provision of a dual purpose Sports Facility Complex and EMRT H.Q./ Rescue Centre. Subject to agreement, the Rescue Centre would also be welcomed for use by the police as a kind of rural outpost.’

When I expressed my admiration for the heroes of the Edale Mountain Rescue Team, Neil Roden invited me to join them. I protested that age and infirmity would not allow me to climb stairs let alone mountains!

`Can you lay on the heath?’ he asked.

`Oh yes, I said, I’m good at laying on heaths, in fact it’s probably what I do best’

`Good, said Neil, then you can help us in our training by being a casualty..’

I duly paid my £3 and am now a `Friend in a High Place’ – safe in the knowledge that if I fall from my pedestal - or from the window of my ivory tower, and my wife dials 999, EMRT will be there to rescue me in record time...!

You can find out more about EMRT on their web pages at To join Friends in High Places. E-Mail:, or post to: The Secretary FiHP, “Fieldsview”, Station Road, Great Longstone, Bakewell. DE45 1TS.

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