Whilst up in Fort William last week at the mountain festival, we paid a visit to Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team's impressive 'gang hut'. We were being shown the facility and meeting the team when a call came through about a climber who was in difficulty on Beinn Eibhinn, a remote peak approximately 30 km east of Fort William. What followed was a 10-hour rescue in foul conditions with numerous near misses:
"We had a 10 hour epic day yesterday with a shout for a climber who had fallen through a cornice on Beinn Eibhinn to the north of Corrour. Our guys fell through cornices at least 4 times themselves and were avalanched while trying to locate the climber. Conditions were atrocious with total white out conditions and very high winds and heavy snow. The guys were having to navigate around the edge of cliffs and gullies in visibility that was not even the length of your arm. Although we say it ourselves, "The Team" did an absolutely fantastic job putting both life and limb on the line to get to the guy who was recovered safe and well.
"We would like to thank Philip and his staff at Corrour Estate for providing ATV's to transport guys and equipment part of the was up the mountain and for allowing use of the of the community centre and providing refreshments for the guys when they finally got off the mountain. As usual much appreciated as the helicopter had to be grounded due to a mechanical issue.
"The conditions in the mountains this year are some of the most extreme we have ever experienced. Virtually every rescue has had a very high element of risk involved and this is not just in Lochaber but for all teams operating in the Highlands. We are quieter than normal with only 11 call outs so far this year but the conditions have been putting considerable demands on us and other teams across Scotland.
"If you are heading to the mountains enjoy but stay safe. If you use the outdoors support mountain rescue in what ever way you can.
"All the guys in Scottish Mountain Rescue are volunteers dealing with over 400 rescues per year. They provide safety cover for one of, if not the largest participation sports in the UK yet will receive less than one weeks wages for Wayne Rooney in support annually from government sources. In fact if any of our guys had been seriously injured or killed this year the total payout in insurance from Police Scotland would have been less than Rooney's weekly wage. This is no criticism of Rooney, just the undervaluing of the resource by our politicians and agencies. In fact if the Crystal Palace fans want to come up to Fort William and throw coins at us we will happily accept the cash!"