MOUNTAIN biker Thomas Stephen is just one of the hundreds of people with reason to be very grateful to the Grassington based Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association.

In April, Thomas was alone when he crashed off his mountain bike while in Guisecliff Woods, near Pateley Bridge.

A team from the fell rescue association were called in by the ambulance service to locate him and get him out the woods and to hospital, where he spent two days with broken ribs, and neck and shoulder injuries.

A very grateful Thomas, who a month after his nasty fall is still struggling to walk, is determined to take part in the team’s main fundraising event next month, the UWFRA Wharfedale 3 Peaks Challenge where he will take part in the longer, 22 mile round trek from Kettlewell.

“On April 18, in the heart of Guisecliff woods, I attempted a jump on my mountain bike, “ he said. “I don’t remember much of how I crashed but I did hard and suffered a heavy impact on my head, neck, shoulder, chest and back.

“The scale of the impact left me unable to move, alone in the woods I was able to recover enough to get my phone from my pocket to call for help. The ambulance service called UWFRA to assist in locating me and getting me out the woods, and after two days in hospital I was later diagnosed with four broken ribs, minor head, neck and shoulder injuries and some internal abdominal injuries.”

Thomas, who has set up a justgiving charity page to raise as much money as he can for the team, added: “ I can’t walk far now but I will complete this 22 mile round trek.”

The 3 Peaks Challenge on Saturday, June 29, is the main fundraising event for UWFRA, which relies totally on public donations to carry out its rescues of both people and animals every day of the year.

The event, centred in Kettlewell, is open to both keen and experienced fell runners, to regular runners, and also to walkers and families.

People can chose to take part in the full, three peaks 22 mile challenge, taking in Birks Fell, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, or a shorter 13.5 mile two peaks challenge, taking in Buckden Pike and Great Whernside - leaving out the 158 metre high Birks Fell.

There is also a 4.5 mile valley walk aimed at families and less experienced walkers, along the delightful Dalesway Path and Paradise Walk.

An UWFRA spokesman said: “The three and two peaks routes offer spectacular views over Upper Wharfedale and surrounding Yorkshire Dales towards the well known Yorkshire Three Peaks in Ribblesdale. The Valley walk follows the Dalesway Path up the River Wharfe to Starbotton and returns to Kettlewell at a slightly higher elevation on the Paradise walk, offering views over the Upper Wharfedale valley.”

The UWRFA team will be marshalling the routes, and advise those taking part to make sure they are capable of completing it, with the right amount of physical strength and stamina.

Entry to the Three Peaks Challenge is £20; Two Peak Challenge, £20; Valley Walk family, £20, and Valley Walk individual, £12. Entry includes free parking, a hot meal at the finish, and a t-shirt.

June’s event is likely to see some of the team’s latest recruits, who having completed their assessments over the spring will have moved into their probationary period and placed onto the callout list.

New recruits are enlisted from October every year, when the team reviews its active call out list to identify any vacancies that need to be filled.

The team’s David Dennis says: “Members can leave through a change in circumstances, moving out of the area or more commonly these days, old age. Thankfully reaching retirement from actual call-outs doesn’t mean we lose the invaluable knowledge they have amassed through their sheer experience as many members stay on in support roles.”

Applicants with the required skills are interviewed and successful candidates start their pre-probationary period in January. This year, six new members include a former police officer, a vet, a paramedic, a design manager and a GP.

Mr Dennis says: "The pre probation period assesses the potential members individual skills including rigging, night navigation, and teaches them the minimum safety standards to operate with the team. These will be greatly enhanced during their probationary period when the skills cover operating as part of a rescue team, casualty care, stretcher rigging and handling, working with helicopters.

"Mountain rescue has developed greatly in recent years and the team need a wide range of skills to undertake the range of rescues we are tasked with encompassing searching for missing vulnerable people, surface rigging, water rescues, cave rescue but these are supplemented by the backroom skills including casualty care, communications, equipment maintenance and inspection, off road driving, vehicle maintenance etc. To achieve this our operational list consists of between 60 and 70 operational members.They don’t have to be experts on every aspect of rescues although many are."

Clare Canty a design manager for a construction company who moved to Grassington three years ago and is a keen trails runner and cyclocross biker, said: ‘’ I wanted to join the team to be a part of the wonderful service they give to the area and I was delighted to have been accepted .I am thoroughly enjoying the intense training we all have to go through and already feel I am part of the very special team camaraderie. I look forward to the day when I pass out as a full member’’.

To find out more about the 3 Peaks Challenge, visit: To sponsor Thomas, go to: