Nine Go Mad In Coniston.
The weekend of 7th-8th March 2014 had been pencilled in our trainee diaries for what had seemed like an absolute age. It signified our Hill Assessment weekend – and a real test of the key skills we had learnt so far.
We arrived on the Friday night at the Barrow Mountaineering and Ski Club hut in the Coppermines valley eager, anxious but hopefully prepared for what was to come. So, to ease the pre-match nerves, the evening was spent down in the village before making the long uphill walk back to the hut and the alpine style bunks (or cars/vans who preferred a more luxurious nights kip).
Saturday morning was an early start (thanks to Matt for switching the big light on at 05:30hrs) and after a full English it was kit check and “be ready for further instructions”.
We knew we were going to be navigating our way solo around the Coniston Fells but we had no prior knowledge of the route. It turned out that we all had different routes and would be setting off from different locations, so we really did have to be spot on with our navigation, especially on the fell tops as the weather up there was typical Lakeland.
Before we were handed our routes, there was the first surprise of the day, a three page theory test. Once this was out of the way, we were handed our GPS radio, maps and grid refs.
“Right, off you go then!” and once the grid refs were plotted we headed out to our various checkpoints. Navigation skills, fitness, radio protocol were all being tested. Some of the checkpoints were unmanned, and some had full team members in waiting ready to pass on the next batch of grid refs.
Along the way a number of the checkpoints had various scenarios set up for us to demonstrate other skill sets that are required of us as trainees.
On approaching the dramatic backdrop of Hodge Close our vortex tripod was set up along with anchors, slings and a rigging plate ready for us to lower a willing volunteer over the edge.
Under the watchful supervision of the rope team we had to set up the live and safety lines to the casualty then perform a controlled lower down the vertical drop. Next, the z-rig was set up and we had to bring the casualty back to safety. These were procedures that we had practised many a time at base and on outdoor training exercises but there was certainly more pressure on us this time to get it right.
Job done, next co-ordinates given, and “off we jolly well go again”. A series of stricken casualties lay ahead of us in the form of our chairman and members of the emergency services, where we had to demonstrate our first aid capabilities and how we would react if we were to encounter this in real life. Finally, the last set of co-ordinates were given to us and we headed gratefully back to base.
Cup of tea in hand, time to relax? No chance!
A message came from our team leader “There’s a call come in, a walker has gone missing, screams have been heard from a nearby gully. What are you going to do?”
First job was to choose a party leader (well volunteered Simon!). A vehicle was driven down to a location nearby and a search undertaken. The casualty was quickly found and a party was dispatched to establish the condition of the patient and the injuries. Equipment was ferried and assembled whilst medical obs. were taken.
The whole exercise took about two hours and once it was complete we trudged back in the dark, realising how difficult it is to piece all the bits of the rescue puzzle together, but as a first attempt at this maybe not surprising.
A hearty meal was scoffed before everyone headed down for some well deserved beers in town.
A great weekend all round, giving us trainees the opportunity to show off the skills we have learnt so far, plus a valuable chance to pick up learning from the full team and the emergency services who were all there to support us.
The weekend also acted as a great chance for the full team to practice different things and try new equipment so we were glad to play our part in helping in this aspect too.
Finally, a big thank you to all who planned, organised and ran the weekend, certainly one to remember.
Class of ‘13
Lee, Anthony, John, Simon, Simon, Gary, Jo, Matt, Jonathan.
On behalf of the Team Leader, we would like to congratulate all the trainees on a successful completion of their hill assessment. They are all now Operational Trainees which means that they are on the call out list. Good luck all.