GSG Newsletter 129
12 December 2006
Annual Dinner 2006
It had been a few years since the last GSG Annual Dinner in S. Wales
and, for several of the 39 members attending, this was their first visit
ever to the area, and their first time underground in the principality.
A special welcome was extended to non-members Robin Sheen and Henry
Bennett - especially the latter since he brought the BEC's key to Agen
Allwedd with him! Commiserations are due to Bob Batty whose plans to
attend were thrown awry by a dose of flu.
The Rifleman's Arms served up an excellent dinner (on hot plates
even!) and many mentioned that it was exceptional value for the money.
The combination of Peter Ireson's laptop and Fraser Simpson's projector
served an accompaniment of images of the Group's activities over the
previous year. One of the PowerPoints had been intended for Goon to
present at Hidden Earth, but there hadn't been room in the programme to
squeeze it in.
After the meal Peter Dowswell proposed the toast to absent friends
and Goon presented the Golden Gnome with accompanying recitation to the
duo of David Morrison and Richard Simpson. This was to recognise all the
excellent work they are doing in Skye, Applecross and Kishorn. New
discoveries and extensions are being found by them at a rate only
exceeded by that of the very first explorations, and evidently there is
more to come as well as a publication. Unfortunately Richard was feeling
under the weather and had had to abort the morning's trip into Ogof
Draenen after ten minutes. He was still suffering from suspected
food-poisoning in the evening and missed the dinner. He was recovered
enough on Sunday, however, for a trip into Aggy. It would have been a
real shame if he'd travelled so far and missed out on caving on a scale
unheard of in Skye.
Golden Gnome Award 2006
Oh, the far Cuillins, they interrupt the view
As step we with our tackle to the isles.
If you're thinking, 'what a plonker to be
You've never smelt the peat mud in a while.
So by Kishorn and by Applecross and along the
Sound of Sleat
With our digging tools and slimming pills and line
We'll attempt to visit all the caves discovered by this pair
As long as we are midgets we'll be fine.
Oh, the far Cuillins, they interrupt the view
And divert us from whatever lies below.
But Messrs Morrison and Simpson have
revealed so many caves
They win the Gnome in all its golden glow.
(to be recited to the cadence of 'The Road to the Isles')
After a few post-dinner drinks in a well-heated if not over-heated
dining room, most members returned to the Pwll Du Centre to continue
partying into the wee small hours. As part of the recent extensive
renovations a plentiful supply of fire doors provided what were almost
airlocks between most of the bunk rooms so the partying didn't disturb
those wanting an early night.
During the weekend there were several trips into Ogof Draenen, Agen
Allwedd, Eglwys Faen and, amongst other sites, a local mine tunnel was
visited and Henry showed some of us his digs on the Blorange. These are
well away from the furthest known passages in Ogof Draenen, and with no
caves known in the immediate area there must be a chance of finding
another Draenen there. Peter Dennis (now residing in Aberystwyth) made
use of the Aggy key to take a party from the university caving on Sunday
after a long Draenen trip on Saturday visiting some of the spectacular
On Saturday despite the locked gate on Aggy, Martin had an unwelcome
surprise to find his rucksack missing from inside the entrance and the
gate forced ajar when he completed his trip, Suspicion fell on some
local(?) lads, but there wasn't anything of real value stolen so the
loss was chalked down to experience.
The 2007 GSG AGM will be held in Elizabeth and Derek's house in
Winchburgh on Saturday 20 January 2007 starting at 10:30 am. An agenda
is enclosed with this Newsletter. There is one resolution affecting the
GSG constitution. This is to increase the minimum age of membership to
18 to align it with recent legislation. This does not affect any current
We now urgently need a new Caving Secretary. For an increasingly
obvious reason Fiona has other priorities in mind for the near future
(see Membership News), and has effectively stood down. Any member
wanting to be nominated for either that post or any of the others should
find a proposer and seconder within the Group and make themselves known
to the Secretary.
We need 10% of the membership to attend for the meeting to be
quorate. Please enter it into your diary now and make a New Year
resolution to attend. Tell Elizabeth in advance if you will be there.
Resolutions other than those affecting the constitution may be
accepted by the Chairman at the meeting. If you want to propose a
resolution, or there are issues you want to raise at the AGM please let
Elizabeth know in advance of the meeting, though it will still be
possible to raise them on the day.
GSG Annual Subscription
Your annual payment for GSG membership becomes due on the 1st
January. A major part of this goes to the BCA for your membership of
that body. This year the BCA have decided that their subscriptions will
remain unchanged for 2007 and we have done the same.
Members who do not pay by the end of January will find their
membership of the BCA has lapsed and they will therefore be uninsured.
The GSG constitution does allow until the end of March for its members
to pay, but if you want uninterrupted access to caves nation-wide you
shouldn't wait till then to renew your membership. If you do not pay by
the end of March your membership of the GSG will automatically be
terminated whatever class of membership you have - even Life. You have
GSG Subscriptions for 2007
Subscriptions are the result of adding a GSG specific amount and a
BCA component. Both are unchanged from last year. The GSG part is L12
for full membership and L14 for joint. Both are reduced by 50% for those
in full time education, the unemployed or those over 65 years old. The
BCA part is L15 for those actively caving and L5 for those who do not
require caving level public liability insurance. If
you have joined BCA as a direct member, or are a member via another
club, or CDG then you do not need to pay the BCA part again to the GSG.
NOTE:- Please let me know your BCA membership number if you are
claiming exemption from the BCA membership fee. This helps BCA identify
you in their records.
Please ensure that you clearly identify yourself as the person making
the payment when you set it up, and send me an email so that I can check
that it arrives. It takes several days for electronic transfers to
trickle through into the GSG account.
In January I bemoaned the lack of notice of subscription levels given
by BCA in previous years. Perhaps they were listening because this year
they have set them early enough for me to tell you of the 2007 GSG
subscription while there is still time to adjust standing orders. A form
is enclosed for those that wish to amend or start one. While they do
ensure that your membership doesn't lapse, they have the danger of
becoming more trouble than they are worth if subscriptions keep
changing. For the present we will persevere with them, though with more
and more members now signing up for on-line banking, direct electronic
transfer or amending a standing order while sitting at your PC is going
to be the future and should make paying the correct amount on time
simple (viruses and Microsoft permitting!).
- Rana Hole - On Thursday October 5th J'Rat and four supporters (Paul
Brock, Fiona Crozier, Neil Usher and Anne Vanderplank) flew from Bristol
to Inverness and hired a car for a stress-free journey to Assynt to meet
Tony Boycott and Jayne who had driven all the way. Tony highly
recommends this mode of transport. Digging commenced on a wet Friday
that got wetter and eventually flooded the dig site to well over a
metre. Mark Brown arrived in the afternoon with a van packed with more
technology to be installed and started carrying it uphill. The Scottish
contingent then arrived, but a SCRO exercise kept them away from Rana as
Saturday dawned relatively dry and more of Mark's van was shifted to
Rana. While the rest of the team dug, Mark installed an unloading and
tipping system on the surface. This allows full skips to be transferred
to a horizontal rail, rolled sideways till above the wheelbarrow, and
then emptied by pulling a lever. Much easier than heaving 50kg+ skips by
On Sunday 8th with Scottish support more kit was carried uphill and
digging concentrated on removing the ledge between the two pitches. Mark
was disappointed to carry the GSG's Hilti drill and batteries all the
way to Rana only to find them flat. For future reference diggers should
note the batteries are usually left discharged so they are in a known
state and can be given a full charge overnight before use. On Monday
Norman Flux had arrived, and while he worked on improving the tipping
monorail, another 128 loads hauled out saw the ledge almost gone and the
redundant BBC ladder removed.
Tuesday completed the demolition of the ledge, installation of a
traverse line to the B&Q ladder and J'Rat draining the dig site and
bagging spoil at the bottom. Norman serviced some Acros on the surface
ready for reuse. A read of the old hut log produced a quote from
28/10/1995 "There is much hope for a possible breakthrough here
The next step forward was Wednesday's test of cycling the spoil all
the way from the bottom. This worked provided there was someone at the
half-way point to guide the skip down. One hundred loads were hauled
from the bottom in about three hours. J'Rat then rigged some rocks for
demolition as an exit was made up a waterfall due to a torrential
shower. After a satisfying bang the Inch was visited for beer and a fine
Thursday saw J'Rat and team departing home. Norman and Mark built a
'flume' to divert skips sideways on their way down the shaft, tidied the
hut and then carried the flume to Rana. Some rock removal around the
entrance to allow the flume to pass was more successful than intended. A
large slab that appeared to have been mostly glued in place by mud
peeled off. As Mark writes - "So made it safer and better for bucket
hauling in one fell swoop." This story continued on Friday when some
subtle banging in the shaft again resulted in more being removed than
Reinforced by Roger, Ivan, John Crae, Julian & Carol and Bob &
Rosemary on Saturday, Mark and Norman concentrated on completing
installation of the flume and erecting a fixed ladder up the entrance
pitch. Between hauling ladders and tools up and down the pitch, the
others extracted 77 loads from the bottom. The unloading monorail was
thought a great success. The flume requires some additional work as
skips need assistance some of the time to pass it. The fixed ladder
though not complete makes the first pitch an easy climb. From its top an
exposed traverse via a sloping ledge gains the wire ladder for the last
few metres. Once the last section of ladder has been installed hauling
will only need to be halted for a few seconds to allow diggers to ascend
and descend the shaft.
The 2nd Mendip Migration of 2006 left Rana much improved and with a
bit more work it will be possible to extract spoil from the bottom with
a minimum team size of four. Other work planned is to replace the
upright poles on the tower with single longer poles donated through the
efforts of Preston White. Two have been hauled up to Rana by Jamie
Yuill. The others await in the Allt nan Uamh car park.
- Cnoc nan Uamh - Fraser and Dan attempted some underwater filming in
the Lake in early October to test some recently acquired kit. However
Fraser's new second-hand super-bright light died after a few minutes and
the peat-blackened water wasn't conducive to filming.
- Knockan area - Almost all the caves in this area were found and
descended during the course of the joint SCRO/AMRT exercise on the 7th
October. In high water it wasn't possible for complete descents of all
of them. It did serve to acquaint more GSG members with just where the
caves in this area are to be found.
- Hibernian Hole - In late October the plan was to carry the GSG scaling
pole uphill and through Hibernian Hole to the extension found in May (NL
128 p3). Roger, Derek, Malcolm, Martin, Ivan, Laura and Irena were
accompanied by Rebecca Carter - a novice wanting to experience Scottish
caving. Despite Irena's car finding a ditch on her way up the forest
track all arrived safely. The pole was soon installed in Slipway Chamber
and both Derek and Martin climbed up to deliver the same verdict. No go.
The water issues from between boulders and any digging looked certain to
lead to extensive collapse. Roger, Derek and Martin surveyed the cave
while Ivan and Malcolm took the girls for a partial traverse of Draught
Caledonian. The compulsory set of photographs were taken.
The GSG has signed an access agreement with the Forestry Commission
that gives us permission to drive along their forest tracks provided we
first check with them if there are any operations going on that might
affect access. At present Ivan has the padlock key, and it and a copy of
the access agreement & rules can be borrowed from him..
Several more Yorkshire trips have been held this summer and autumn.
One attended by Mark Lonnen, Peter Ireson and Derek Pettiglio was aiming
at Nick Pot, but switched to Alum Pot main shaft because of the weather.
In late November Mark, Peter, Ivan and Rachael Huggins spent a
weekend at the YSS hut in Helwith Bridge for a wet descent of Heron Pot
on Saturday (only to the bottom streamway as the lower exit would have
been impassable) and a Calf Holes/Browgill Cave traverse on Sunday. All
enjoyed the latter so much they returned through the caves rather than
walk in the sunshine across the fields.
Yet More Discoveries in Upper Flood
In the last Newsletter we reported that GSG/MCG member Julie Hesketh
had been on the trip into Upper Flood, Mendip that added a conservative
500m to its length. The latest issue of Descent reported on more
discoveries, adding at least the same again and taking the length of the
cave up to almost 2km.
This is now old news. Julia has just reported another breakthrough.
In her own words:- "I went down Flood on Friday (having taken a day of
work to push the place) with Bill Chadwick, Mike Richardson and Tony
Jarratt our guest. We went down "Neverland" so called because it was
soooo pretty we were never going to push it.... Erm, ach well. It
WENT!!!! For 500m!!!! To the most unbelievably fantastic formations I
have ever seen. And we only dug for about 10 minutes with our bare
hands moving rocks aside.... Wake me up someone; I think I am
With results like that we just have to persuade Julie down to the
bottom of Rana Hole!
Crucifixion Cave Restored after Vandalism
On 27 July 2006 the Crucifixion painting on Davaar Island,
Campbeltown was over-painted with an image of Che Guevara by an unknown
person. This was widely reported at the time in the national press. The
much restored and repainted scene was originally created by local art
teacher Archibald MacKinnon and discovered by local fishermen in 1887.
What hasn't been reported is that the damage has been restored by
local artist Ronald Togneri. He first repainted the scene in 1978, and I
write repaint rather than restore as the painting deteriorates so much
between restorations that the artist usually has very little of the
previous version to guide him. For more details on the history of this
painting and photographs of some of the different versions view the
Historic Kintyre website.
This includes the information, unknown to me, that near the main
painting there is a painting of a cherub that first appeared in the 1934
restoration by Archibald MacKinnon and hadn't been repainted until now.
Latest news from our Golden Gnomes - David Morrison and Richard
Simpson - is that during a weekend's caving with Toby Speight taking
photos for the forthcoming guide book, they encouraged him to connect
Heretics Cave via a squeeze to Aten's Chamber giving a tight 60m through
trip. A couple of metres were also added to The Cellar
- Wee Beastie Cave - The resident beastie has been shifting its bedding
revealing two small passages possibly diggable. A third passage splits
in two: left is too tight, right might go with a little digging. Fresh
animal droppings in the cave make for pleasant pushing.
- Triangle Cave - Toby Speight removed some small boulders just below
the entrance to show continuing passage. It looks worth a bit more
Some time ago three members surveyed an underground drainage conduit
- the cundie - under Ratho Park Golf Course. Recently a nearby farmer,
Joe Barry of Ratho Main farm, asked our help to investigate a chamber
he'd found under his steading. He'd descended a 6m shaft to a lowering
version of the Ratho Park cundie and found it entered a comparatively
large chamber. The team of Mark Lonnen, Peter Ireson, Jim Salvona,
Rachael Huggins, John Crae and Ivan Young arrived with surveying gear
plus Heyphone and spent an intriguing couple of hours poking into all
parts of this local artificial cave system. This involved some
technically difficult caving manoeuvres to enter a higher inlet passage
up a narrow stone chute. Mark managed with a bit of difficulty and some
help from below. Pete only managed with assistance from above and below
and tells us that his arm is gradually returning to its normal length
after Mark's vigorous help.
The chambers and nearby passages were surveyed and locations verified
using the Heyphone in 'radiolocation' mode. The chamber proved to lie
under a room built onto the outside of the steading and labelled
"Thrashing Mill" on the 19th century OS map. This also showed a now
vanished reservoir uphill from it. On an earlier plan this was called a
Millpond; confirmation that the chamber once held some form of water
powered mill. It was most likely a waterwheel of some kind though there
are several puzzles to solve about its type and the configuration of the
chamber. It is physically possible to house a 5m diameter wheel in the
chamber, but there is now nothing there to hint at what was actually
installed. Investigation continues and a comprehensive report is planned
for the GSG Bulletin next year.
2006/7 Meets and Events
See the events page.
If the meets list looks sparse that is because we need a new Caving
Secretary. In the interim, meets are still going ahead though organised
at shorter notice and therefore missing all the Yorkshire caves that
need permits. Information on these meets is distributed by email to the
GSG's distribution list. If you have email and are not on it a simple
request to Ivan will get you added.
This month's new member is:-
Alison Boutland - who started caving in 1985, whilst living in Cumbria,
with a memorable(?) ladder trip down Calf Holes. She was persuaded into
Coniston copper mines, Hodge Close Slate mines and iron ore mines around
Egremont, as well as more Yorkshire trips. Some Mendip caves followed
then when she moved back north she and some friends formed the Elysium
Underground Group (EUG) and got back into Yorkshire caving. Over the
last year she and other EUG members have joined forces on some Yorkshire
meets with the GSG. She writes that her main caving interests are
photography and staying alive!
We are sad to report the demise of Boffin, Goon's faithful canine
companion of some years. Many of you will have encountered Boffin on
trips across the Yorkshire moors, Assynt and elsewhere. Though not so
much of a speleo-dog as his predecessor Braco, Boffin was a fine
travelling companion and will be greatly missed.
- Dan Harries & Fiona Ware - may be forgiven for their attention
wandering from the speleological to the gynaecological as they await a
happy event in the New Year. This does make passing crawls more
difficult for Fiona and means that we need a new caving secretary -
applications to The Secretary, Liz Ellis please. On the positive side in
a few years there'll be a new recruit to investigate all those really
tight squeezes the rest of can't manage.
- Suzanne Peggie & David Robinson - are presently installing themselves
in a house north of Bristol. This may make staying in touch difficult
for the SCRO's Training Officer (Suzie). We shall see.
Elphin Caving Centre
As a result of a clash of events, holidays and other jobs the
attendance at the proposed Italian theme meal in November dwindled and
it was cancelled. This won't happen for the Xmas Party on Saturday 16th
December and a large turnout is expected. Peter's menu for the event is
given here and there will be vegetarian options. If you haven't already
booked your place and your bunk do it now! Cost is expected to be
between L5 and L10 per head.
The "Bring Your Own Curry" on Saturday 7th October after the
SCRO/AMRT autumn exercise was a great success with a multitude of cooks
not spoiling any broth, but serving up a fine assortment of curries
suitable for vegetarians and carnivores.
Suggestions for future theme evenings should be made to Peter. One
suggestion is for Polish cuisine, which could be appropriately scheduled
with a hut maintenance weekend to paint and polish the hut!
Hut fees are L5.00 per night for non-members and L2.50 for GSG,
Bradford and BEC members. Reduced to L3.00 and L2.00 for children,
students, the unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of L2.00
only when the hut is full. Day fees are L1.00 for members and L2.00 for
If you want to stay in the hut at any time please contact the Hut
Warden - Peter Dowswell - to check if there will be space (hutbookings
@ gsg.org.uk). There will usually be a few bunks spare if
large groups are staying. Even if all bunks are occupied the bed-settees
by the fire are recommended and spare mattresses in the front bunk room
can be used in the conservatory.
When investigating a new area for caves one of the first priorities
is to obtain a map of the area and see just what the Ordnance Survey
have included. Especially at the larger scales many caves can be found.
Buying your own set of maps is prohibitively expensive when a few
minutes might reveal absolutely nothing of interest and a wasted
purchase. It is possible, however, to find mappings at a variety of
scales on the Internet.
Ordnance Survey site provides
maps up to 1:25,000 using Get-a-map. At that scale each download gives
about a 2x2 km square.
For 1:10,000 mapping Julian Walford recently found
This displays about 1000 x 750m at
a time and while it lacks contours does include more detail than the
1:25,000 mapping on Get-a-map.
Another favourite is
old-maps where mid-19th
century 6" maps can be seen admittedly at a rather coarse resolution.
All these sources allow you to grab the screen image but only of a
small area. By repeated panning left and right, up and down a collection
of overlapping images can be saved then pasted together into a larger
image. I use Paint Shop Pro, but any similar programme can be used. You
should note that while you can do this for your own use, there are
copyright implications and a careful reading of the relevant warning on
each web site is recommended if wider distribution is planned.
Nigel Robertson writes that folk using Google Mail get a series of
adverts down the side of the page linked to topics in the email. The
last GSG Newsletter generated offers for jobs in Wales, Welsh hotels,
the Fron Male Voice Choir, Direct Hygiene, Sanitary Disposal, Refuse
Truck Rental and Waste Disposal. There seems to be a common theme
running through some of those!
Julian Walford is continuing to act as LED lamp supplier to the GSG.
The current 21-LED lamp is naturally brighter than the previous 12-LED
model at the expense of shorter run times. The price remains L10. With
2000mAhr NiMH rechargeable cells Julian reported 2.5 hours of light.
Good AA alkaline cells will give perhaps 4 hours, but at a far higher
cost per hour. For more details and to check availability contact Julian
- jdwalford @ iee.org
Prices to non-members in brackets, items marked * are out of print
but photocopies are available. Postage is extra. Contact Alan to find
out what colour clothing is available.
|Caves of Skye||6.00 (8.50)||Caves of Assynt||6.00 (8.50)*|
|Caving Songs of Mendip||3.00 (4.00)||Caves of Schichallion||3.00 (4.00)*|
|The Southern Highlands||1.20 (1.50)||Appin Cave Guide||1.50 (2.00)*|
|Appin Cave Guide Supplement||2.00 (2.50)||Buddy reading (Caving in Couplets)||2.00 (2.50)|
Postage is extra. Order from:- Alan Jeffreys, 8 Scone Gardens,
Edinburgh, EH8 7DQ, or Ivan Young, 45 Maitland Road, Kirkliston,
West Lothian, EH29 9AP. Please make cheques payable to "G.S.G."
Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation News
This was a joint SCRO Assynt MRT exercise. The scenario was that
three students wandering around the Knockan area had got separated and
two were now missing and thought to have come to grief in one or more of
the caves. A search of the area was necessary and with the AMRT
Landrover and Bus ferrying folk along the track, three teams clutching
lists of GPS co-ordinates set out into the cold wet morning to discover
if their GPS receivers could find cave entrances.
For two of the teams success meant finding a note that the reader had
to change role and become a casualty. More gear was ferried to the hill
and Mark Campbell who'd found himself with a 'damaged' leg in Poll
Eoighainn, insisted on an aided self- rescue out to daylight where he
could relax on a McInnes stretcher. He preferred that to being trussed
in the Gemini stretcher and hauled out of the cave.
There were three 'casualties' to find and on the first sweep one
wasn't found because the team leader decided water levels in Uamh an
Tartair were dangerously high. A later re-appraisal with more SCRO
gathered there, decided it was passable and the third casualty
(laminated note!) was recovered.
Also found/rescued nearby from Cul Eoghainn was an inflatable sheep
(thanks Roger!) and a bag of goodies for the teams to snack on.
Overall this was a productive day in terms of familiarising members
of both teams with the terrain and working together on an area search.
There were some shortcomings that were noted during the debrief
discussions. Thanks to Suzie Peggie for creating the scenarios and
preparing the information packs, to Roger and a modestly hypothermic
Rachael who installed the 'casualties' and sheep in the caves, and to
everyone else who took part - 21 SCRO members, 3 SCRO/AMRT members and
about ten other AMRT members.
Annual General Meeting
On the morning after the Assynt exercise while there was a captive
audience, an AGM was held in the GSG hut. Minutes for this will shortly
appear in the members' area of the SCRO web site (access instructions
will be emailed to members) The committee was elected unopposed.
Shell / Boots across Scotland Seminar 2006
On a frosty November evening, members of mountain rescue teams from
all parts of Scotland descended on the Broomlee Centre, West Linton for
a weekend of films, lectures, training and exercises.
On the Friday evening there was a screening of E11 - a very
entertaining film about one man's determination to climb the (allegedly)
hardest route in the world at Dumbarton rock. A well stocked bar
contributed to a relaxed atmosphere as people got to know each other.
Only one other group was using the Broomlee Centre that weekend - a
meditation group - who asked curiously what MRCofS stands for. A quick
witted member of a team who shall remain nameless explained that we were
the "Most Reverent Church of Satan". We didn't hear much from the
meditation group after that!
Saturday morning included a training session on search management.
Search management focuses on techniques to evaluate the "probability of
area" e.g. how likely the target is to be found in the area, and
"probability of detection" which is a measure of how likely it is to
find the target if they are in the area. These techniques could be
usefully applied to a search of complex limestone workings or abandoned
mines to improve the effectiveness of a search.
There was a session on despondent persons (potential suicide cases)
which included some useful tips on how to handle such a person if you
find them - and the importance of getting an overdose case to hospital
within 24 hours of the overdose.
DI Craig Dewar provided training on scenes of crime and forensics.
The basic rules being that any incident is ruled as a scene of crime
until the police determine otherwise. After taking any necessary actions
to preserve life the scene should be left undisturbed as far as
possible. Leave the scene by the same route you entered and await
debriefing by the scene of crime officer. The capabilities of modern
forensics are quite fascinating - the forensic officers can determine
who has been at the scene and even know if you scratched your head (or
anything else!) whilst there!
During the afternoon there was practice of our search management
skills in preparation for the night exercise. Chris Chapman (with a
little help from Ivan and Dave Warren) had arranged a complex scenario
for the evening exercise and even arranged for some realistic weather
conditions - wind, rain, snow and freezing temperatures - nice one
The residents of West Linton must have been wondering what was
happening as mountain rescue vehicles arrived and departed all evening
deploying teams to three separate search areas following reports of a
missing micro-light aircraft. The reality was more serious there having
been a mid-air collision between the micro-light and an army land rover
(sorry, Chinook helicopter) resulting in a scattering of fatally wounded
cardboard cut outs and a number of surviving volunteers from the local
army base. The mid-air collision had caused the Chinook to metamorphose
into old computer and photocopier parts which were scattered over a wide
upland area. A couple of drunks (one of whom was virtually comatose)
added to the complexity of the operation and had to be evacuated from
the crash site. The entire search operation was run by Chief Inspector
Ciorstan Shearer who very capably fulfilled the role of tactical
command. The operation ran until almost midnight, although after
debriefing some rescue personnel continued the operation in the bar area
until the small hours became significantly larger!
The peace was shattered at 8am on Sunday morning by the arrival of
the air ambulance - I'm not sure what the meditation group made of this
A slightly later start on Sunday morning led to a briefing on the
changes to search and rescue services in the UK - in particular the
migration of search and rescue aircraft provision and maintenance to the
private sector. This migration will start in July next year, but it will
be several years before all UK search and rescue aircraft are provided
in this manner. It is probable that most of the current RAF, Navy and
Coastguard aircrews will be manning the new aircraft. There will be
ample opportunities for training exercises when the new aircraft come
into service so that may be a good time to arrange another winch
practice in Assynt.
A brief presentation on the Civil Contingencies Bill led to an update
on the MRCofS by Alfie Ingram. After an early lunch there were a number
of practical sessions including waterside search, GPS, hill party
leadership, navigation and more search management. By late afternoon the
fun was over and all the cakes had been eaten. The convoy of mountain
rescue vehicles departed once more to the far corners of Scotland.
An excellent weekend with some quality training.
The Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland has issued SCRO four of the
standard ICOM radios used throughout Scotland by Mountain Rescue Teams.
Mark Lonnen, our Technical Officer, will be organising training. Mark is
hoping to obtain more radios via a combination of gifts of old kit and
sales and purchases on Ebay. At present the four radios are allocated to
Mark, Ivan, Roger and Peter Ireson. It might be thought better to have
them at a central location so they can be issued to whoever is available
when there is a call-out; however, that would probably guarantee flat
batteries. Allocating them to individuals is more certain to keep them
charged and ready to go.