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File Photo from Team Training

A seventeen year old female hiker with suspected spinal injuries was stretchered off Kings Gully by members of the Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team last Thursday the 18th of October following a multi- agency rescue operation. Deputy Team Leader Alan Sayers outlined the day’s events. “We received a call from ambulance control last Thursday at approximately 1506 hours in relation to an injured female hiker on Kings Gully which is in the Glencar region. Initial reports indicated that the injured hiker was part of a five person party, had fallen and sustained injuries to her lower back, hip and knee areas. We immediately initiated a full team callout and were ale to mobilise seven volunteer rescue personnel within a half hour period”.

“Due to the potential severity of the girls injuries and factoring in the inclement weather conditions this quickly developed into a multi-agency rescue operation. Paramedics from the H.S.E Ambulance Service were on site and the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Strandhill was also scrambled”.

“Our initial team reached the area and quickly ascended the track to the Kings Gully area where the girl was located. Although we were working on uneven ground with a significant slope we had to treat for possible spinal injuries, with the assistance of the ambulance staff the girl was stabilised and immobilised before being loaded onto our stretcher. We were able to stretcher carry the casualty to the roadside and then transfer her to a waiting ambulance; she was immediately conveyed to Sligo General Hospital Emergency Department for further treatment”.

“The coordination involved in utilising the Ambulance Service, the Coastguard and Mountain Rescue requires precise communication and recognition of skills and most appropriate roles. This rescue operation proceeded very smoothly due to the joint training exercises carried out and to the personal familiarity we have developed with each other, it augers well for the future of mountain rescue in the region. We hope”, concluded Mr Sayers, “that both locals and tourists alike can continue to enjoy the recreational benefits of our local upland areas in a responsible manner”.

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Seasonal mountain walkers are not necessarily the same as seasoned mountain walkers. Irish mountains are not high by international standards but they are challenging. People suffer serious injury and death in the hills of Ireland

The Christmas holiday period is a time for leisure and recreation, including hill walking. It is a period where people often succumb to an “excess of zeal” and don’t plan properly. Failing to prepare adequately for your “adventures” is preparing to fail. Tragedy has occurred in the mountains of Ireland over the Christmas New Year period.

Before following your star into the hills over the coming weeks please reflect on these three wise things; all fundamental to a safe day in the hills – you, the weather and the terrain. When planning, remember that these factors are related and interconnected.

First consider the skills that you and your companions possess, it really all starts there. You should not venture into the mountains alone no matter how experienced you are. Food, drink, spare clothing, first aid kit, map and compass are all essential equipment. Navigating effectively in cloud requires knowledge and experience, built up over years. The inexperienced may have the “gadgets” but not the knowledge to use them effectively. Equipment will not make you physically fit; fitness is also built up incrementally over time. The stamina of the weakest member of the party should dictate the day’s plan or itinerary. Taking children into the high mountains in winter is not advisable.

The second and possibly most critical is the weather; it can quickly become your enemy. Listen to the forecast before making your plan, Irish weather is variable and unpredictable. Rain, wind, temperature and visibility are key considerations. As you go further up you get more rain and wind but less temperature and visibility. Low level routes are sufficiently challenging for most walkers in poor conditions. Don’t go too high or too far when poor weather is forecast; poor weather can kill you. Short days give insufficient contingency; minor mishaps escalate on a dark stormy evening. Don’t allow your enthusiasm outstrip your experience.

Thirdly and finally the terrain is a very important factor. Even in good conditions steep terrain can be too challenging to those not accustomed to it. Apart from rocky terrain, steep grassy slopes are treacherously slippery when wet.  The hills are very wet now and likely to remain so for months. The best boots won’t stop you from slipping and falling on steep wet ground. When the weather gets cold, that water becomes ice at altitude, increasing the dangers. Ben Bulben will still be there in the long, hopefully dryer, calmer days of summer. The marked trails and lower hills are a good initial preparation for the longer trips of spring.

Don’t make Christmas a sad anniversary for your loved ones.  Stay prepared, stay safe, stay happy.

Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team thank all those people who support them financially or otherwise, Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year holiday. If you do need assistance, rescue volunteers in your area, will be willingly there for you.  Do not stack the odds against yourself by being excessively zealous over short winter days.

Remember it’s about you, it’s about the weather and it’s about the terrain.

Busy day today. Training with Rescue 118 this morning who dropped us to trig point on Benbulben (we had to walk down ourselves). And in the afternoon we rescued a sheep that was stuck on a small ledge for nearly a week. A good days work. More photos in our Gallery.

Training with Rescue 118

Training with Rescue 118

The Team had an excellent training weekend down in Ackill Island last weekend. 10 Members headed down early on Saturday morning climbed up Sleivemore and then down to Annagh Strand where we camping for the night. After a rough night weather wise we climb up Croaghaun on Sunday and done to Keen Strand. Great weekend. Lesson learnt less is more when packing your bag.

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Saturday 23rd July was a night to remember for 210 intrepid walkers who took up the challenge to raise funds for the Sligo/Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team“Summer Night Walk” proved to be an even bigger success than we had hoped” reported Heidi Wickham , Rescue Team Member and walk co-ordinator.

The Rescue Team needs funds , and  are often asked about safe routes up the mountain , so it was decided to instigate a guided walk to the trig point and the very top of Benbulben at 526m to give people the opportunity to experience climbing one of the country’s most iconic land marks at night and helping their local Rescue Team too.

A three and a half hour route was planned and the 210 walkers were split into three groups each guided by experienced Rescue members. After a fairly tough ascent , the first 100 or so made it to the trig point, with the two other groups following on at half hour intervals.

We all met at the summit in a blaze of torch lights , and sat in awe and wonder at the spectacular view , chatting and munching sandwiches , this was at about 11.30 pm in dark, dry and calm conditions with a blood red quarter moon peeping out from the clouds.
The photo above  (courtesy of Ciaran Davis ) shows the descent. The walk raised over €2,505 for the Rescue Team, and we hope to make it and annual event.

There were no accidents , a few wet feet and muddy backsides as the grass was slippery in places – but nothing to worry about and a lot of very smiley faces as we had hot tea and biscuits back down at Lukes Bridge at around 1.30 am.

The Team’s funding has taken yet another blow as our annual grant was slashed again this year , making a 40% cut over two years and leaving us with only around €7k as a yearly operational income. From this the Team pays insurance, has to buy kit and medical supplies, maintain two vehicles and other expenses. It is a completely voluntary organisation , and members clock up hundreds of hours of service each year in aiding others on Ireland’s uplands.

A huge thank you to all those who took part in this truly historic walk –  a real  ” I was there”  moment – and many thanks to all the Sligo/Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team on the mountain.

More Photos

Members of the Sligo Scouts attend an information evening on hypothermia, hill safety and equipment with Conal and Heidi from the Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team. Special mention to Sligo Carpet Centre who donated a new piece of carpet for us to demonstrate the equipment on – thanks lads!

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The Gallery has some new photos of  Trainee Search and Carryout Training – Knockalongy in the Sleive Gamph mountains.

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Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Participated in three St Patricks Day Parades this year. In Sligo Town, Grange and Manorhamilton. Below are a few photos;

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On Saturday we had our 3rd sheep rescue in the last year. We were contacted by a local farmer to lower a sheep trapped from ledge above Swiss Valley, Glencar. We decided to use the exercise as training and sent a five man team. On arrival at the cliff top we set-up anchors with hedgehogs. Two members abseiled to the ledge where the unfortunate sheep had been residing for the past two weeks. Secured animal with slings. Then working together abseiled to below. The two members were then assisted by the farmer to bring the sheep off the steep ground into the Swiss Valley and then to road. The remaining team dismantled the system, carried all the gear back to the Van  and picked up other team members and returned to base. Job done, farmer happy and the sheep happier.

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