The Lomond Mountain Rescue Team was set up in 1967 and is the longest serving of the three teams in Central Scotland. Lomond is one of the busiest Mountain Rescue Teams in Scotland, covering an area of over 1000 square miles in one of the most popular mountain areas of Scotland.
Last year and the start of 2021 has obviously brought its own challenges and despite many restrictions the team still had its busiest year yet, with 51 callouts. The increased complexities of rescues brought by Covid-19 has meant that they were looking for support to help cover PPE. Sue is Lomond Team's treasurer and let us know a bit more about how things have been going.
"Covid has required all MR Teams to adapt quickly and efficiently to the additional challenges posed during rescue situations. We have to treat each rescuee/casualty as a possible asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic Covid carrier, wear the appropriate PPE kit, and use sanitisers, while trying to maintain the best social distancing we can (not always easy when stretcher carrying!) Heavy duty protective gloves that don't split when carrying stretchers have also proved useful!"
There are obviously heavy restrictions currently in place across the UK which means we need to be extra careful, respectful and sensible about what we should and shouldn't be doing at the moment.
"Our advice follows that of the Scottish Government and Mountaineering Scotland, and while welcoming the inclusion of outdoor recreation as one of the exemptions for travel, recognising the low risk of transmission outdoors and the benefits to health and wellbeing, we ask hillwalkers to be mindful that we all need to be extra careful to avoid transmission, given the new variant of the virus. We encourage everyone to continue to act responsibly, to respect the feelings of rural and remote communities and when planning your activity stay well within your limits (particularly in winter conditions) and minimise the risks to yourselves and others."
For many of us we can only imagine getting back out into the beautiful Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, which would normally see two million visitors a year, 60,000 walkers annually attempting the West Highland Way and Ben Lomond itself a playground to over 30,000 walkers and climbers. With this in mind there is also one very important learning from last year that Sue highlighted.
"Most of the call outs last year followed the easing of restrictions after the first lockdown and there were some weeks over the summer, where it became almost a full-time job for our volunteer team members, who all have regular jobs too!"
We must take this on board. Whilst lockdown has opened up the discovery of local adventures, there will be so many of us eager to get adventure fixes in 2021. So once restrictions begin to ease again it will be even more critical to be incredibly respectful and caring to those areas we love so much. If we are not careful, then both the environment and MRT team are going to be put under enormous pressure once more.