Last weekend myself and Team Leader Arjan Hendriks organised our winter training weekend in Lochaber. As in previous years we were delighted to have all of the catering sourced, prepared and provided by the pupils in Ms Thistlethwaite’s Professional Cookery class at Gairloch HIgh School. This is a service that we have all come to look forward to both from the quality of the food supplied and as it allows us to focus on the training aspect of the weekend. We all value having this real link between our mountain rescue community and the pupils at the school.
Eleven team members travelled down from Torridon, The Black Isle and Inverness area to Fort William where we were invited to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team base. There we discussed the prevailing weather conditions and decided that a visit up onto the north face of Ben Nevis would not be a productive use of our time. Instead we planned to share our practice in rescue rigging and crag snatches in Glen Nevis.
Unfortunately the accommodation and facilities at our bunkhouse near Loch Eil prevented us from being fortified by the wonderful ‘Full Scottish Breakfast’ provided by the pupils. Instead we had a ‘Continental Style’ breakfast before heading to Lochaber MRT base and onwards to Sheep Fank Wall, Glen Nevis.
At Sheep Fank Wall we set the scenario of a fallen climber who was to be crag snatched from above and then lowered with the rescuer to a receiving party who had a stretcher waiting at the base of the crag. It was interesting for the two teams to compare how they would execute such a rescue. Although we may use different equipment the principles of rigging are the same. Eventually the hail and snow showers even at low level become heavier and harder so after three hours we returned to base. There we continued to look at different techniques and in particular, the system that Lochaber MRT use on lowers down routes such as Five Point Gully on Ben Nevis.
Our caterers had prepared lasagne with garlic bread followed by home made apple crumble and custard. The final preparation of this was done at the Lochaber MRT base where we were joined by some of the local team. The meal was delicious, just what everyone needed after our first day of training. One of the Lochaber guys suggested that the pupils should start providing the catering for our national mountain rescue Scotland courses..!
Next day we had power and lighting at our bunkhouse so we were up early to cook the breakfast of heroes! We then met up with another Torridon MRT member before heading to The Ice Factor, Kinlochleven. Arjan had organised this two hour visit to the ice wall as preparation and equipment check prior to a team trip to Norway at the end of the month. By the time we had our two or three hours of front pointing the cooked breakfast was well and truly worked off.
Another successful trip which was made all the more enjoyable by the fantastic catering from Gairloch HIgh School and the great hospitality from Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. Look out for some photos and movie clips soon on the team gallery.
Jim Sutherland, Training Officer