Role play turned into reality for rescue volunteers when they were involved in a record number of emergency call-outs.
The Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation (CRO) and Grassington-based Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) had barely finished a two-day training exercise when they received an SOS on Sunday afternoon.
A 63-year-old Cheshire climber had a suspected heart attack at the foot of Giggleswick Scar. The rescue, in which he was flown to Leeds General Infirmary by air ambulance, was particularly tough because of a steep gradient and loose scree edged with dense woodland and scrub.
Earlier in the day, both organisations helped a 54-year-old walker from Preston after she broke a wrist climbing Ingleborough. A Sea King helicopter from RAF Leconfield, which had been involved in the training day, flew her to Ingleton for treatment by CRO members.
The day before, UWFRA members helped a 39-year-old man who slipped and seriously injured his leg after wading in the River Wharfe near Kettlewell Bridge. Six members of UWFRA helped stretcher the man to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance waiting on a nearby cricket field.
The weekend’s rescues were followed on Monday by two more call-outs. UWFRA helped the air ambulance tend to a woman, believed to be in her 40s, who collapsed in the Springs Wood area of Skipton.
Later that day, both rescue organisations searched for a lost group of Merseyside teenagers who had been attempting a circular walk near Horton in Ribblesdale. The 14 students and their supervisor were found in three parties, having split up, and were spread out over several kilometres.
They had made a 180 degree navigational error and walked off their maps to High Green Field before realising their mistake.
So far this year, the CRO has attended 33 incidents – compared to just 22 by this time in both 2007 and 2008. Duty controller Rae Lonsdale said there had never been as many call-outs by this time of year and it was possibly due to the good weather bringing more visitors to the Dales.
He said the two-day training session – which also involved North Yorkshire Police and Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team – had been a huge success. It had shown the benefits of bringing all the rescue organisations together for training.
Mr Lonsdale said around 50 volunteers took part on Saturday in sessions covering a stretcher carry, setting up a tripod for a vertical stretcher haul, displacement of fumes or foul air in a mine or cave, personal safety and proper procedure at a crime scene, and North Yorkshire Police’s major incident communication system.
There was a presentation on dealing with a downed aircraft, delivered by CRO member Bill Batson, formerly chief instructor with the RAF mountain rescue service.
Highlights on Sunday included 18 volunteers being flown to the summit of Ingleborough in a Sea King helicopter and then winched to the bottom.