Scotland’s weather: Mountain rescue in busiest year

THE miserable summer weather has played a major part in stretching the resources of Scotland’s busiest mountain rescue team, which has responded to a massive rise in call-outs.

The miserable summer is adding to the unprecedented number of mountain rescue call outs. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The miserable summer is adding to the unprecedented number of mountain rescue call outs. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The volunteers in the Highland region of Lochaber, whose patch covers the UK’s tallest mountain Ben Nevis, have been deployed an “unprecedented” 91 calls so far this year – almost reaching the average figure for an entire year, with five months still remaining in 2015.

With the normally-busy winter months still to contend with, team leader John Stevenson believes this year could be their busiest ever.

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He said: “It has certainly been an unprecedented year, and the terrible summer weather has been a contributing factor.

“A lot of people who head out have not anticipated the conditions high in the peaks, and many go out badly equipped.”

Many of the call-outs have also been to go to the aid of those suffering from exhaustion, brought on by dealing with the elements.

Mr Stevenson added: “This summer we have freezing conditions on the summit of Ben Nevis, with sleet.

“It has been cold, wet and miserable. People are not equipped for it, especially at the top of the Ben. It is not the place to be in these conditions. A lot of calls has been for people getting lost.

“We have also been dealing with a lot of slips and trips, with people suffering broken bones and twisted ankles and the such.

“The main path is again very broken up because of the weather, and it is quite an undertaking for people to make.

“It is so much deteriorated it is not a path any more, but basically boulders. And when these rocks get wet and slippery in the conditions we have, then it results in injuries.”

Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team has rescued 96 people, having given up 5,200 hours of their time, so far this year.

The volunteers normally contend with an average of around 100 call-outs each year, but the figure has already reached 91, with not even two-thirds of 2015 gone.

However, while the weather has played a part in the increase, Mr Stevenson added that they have spent many hours on the hills carrying out searches for two long-standing missing ­walkers.

Eric Cyl, 62, was last seen heading off into the Mamore mountain range near Fort William at the end of May.

Tom Brown, 65, meanwhile, was last seen leaving his home in Lanarkshire on 1 July, and checked in to the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel the following day. His rucksack was found near the Steall Falls in Glen Nevis.

But neither man has been found.

The team leader said: “We have spent a lot of days looking for these men, and members will continue their efforts when they have some spare time.”

He added: “We just ask people to take a common-sense attitude when heading to the hills and, particularly, get well equipped. We want people to enjoy themselves and not get into any trouble. I also have to thank the employers of our volunteers for allowing them to attend call-outs. Without them we would not be able to operate.”

The team, which relies on public donations to meet annual costs of around £80,000 – of which the Scottish Government provides £30,000 – this week found the body of missing walker Ian Bell, 60, from ­Hertfordshire.