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Q&A: Tim Hamlet, Assynt Mountain Rescue Team leader and outdoors instructor

By John Davidson

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Tim Hamlet is an outdoors instructor and earlier this year was made leader of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team. The 34-year-old tells John Davidson more about the experience of rescuing and his love of the outdoors

Tim Hamlet, Assynt Mountain Rescue Team leader.
Tim Hamlet, Assynt Mountain Rescue Team leader.

Where are you based?

Achiltibuie, but our mountain rescue post is based in Inchnadamph.

Congratulations on being made leader of the team. You've been in the team for some time, including as training officer and deputy leader. Can you tell us what you gain personally from being part of the rescue team?

I get the chance to give back, the whole operation is voluntary and relies on donations and the good will of people to make it work.

As I myself got rescued at the age of 17, I feel strongly that it is the right thing to do.

How often do you get callouts and how much training is involved?

We have a day of training each month plus occasional weekends away. There are also additional national courses to increase and share knowledge in areas such as technical rope work, search management and medical.

Assynt Mountain Rescue Team during a recent training exercise.
Assynt Mountain Rescue Team during a recent training exercise.

Presumably this has been a little different over the last 16 months or so due to Covid restrictions?

Honestly, I am amazed but the resourcefulness of the team being able to keep up enthusiasm even over virtual training. Of course it is not the same as being out on the hill but at least skill fade can be combated slightly.

You must have had some difficult experiences as a team member – how do you cope and support each other through those tough times?

We have a fabulous network and the team operates much like a family – we look out for each other and have the space to talk.

Yes, there are difficult times but there are also fabulous success stories.

What aims do you have for the future of the team?

We plan on moving forward towards building a new team base, one with a flushing toilet would be nice.

Currently our base is little more than a garage for the Land Rover. We would also like to get our brand new communications vehicle and ambulance for the north-east under cover.

Assynt Mountain Rescue team's new ambulance.
Assynt Mountain Rescue team's new ambulance.

You are also an outdoor instructor. What inspires you to get out into the Highlands and to share that with others?

In my day job I work as a mountaineering and climbing instuctor as well as a sea kayak and canoe guide.

Running my own buisness taking people out into the great outdoors is a pleasure. Sharing what I think is some of the best and most scenic landscape in Scotland with people is such a joy.

Do you have a favourite place to climb or walk in the hills?

Favourite place or hill – people often ask me this, would you rather be out rock climbing or canoeing. Honestly, I would be happy either way.

Do you have a favourite outdoors book or author?

Do rock climbing guidebooks count? I do really like the writings of Nan Shepherd, although they are about the Cairngorms.

It is so nicely written and helps me to look at the landscape differently.

What advice would you give to anybody heading to the hills this summer and beyond?

Plan ahead, plan your route, plan your escape if the weather comes in. Do not be afraid to leave it until another day if the weather is not right, the mountain will still be there.

Learn the skills of how to use a map and compass and take them with you. Plenty of food and a group shelter, along with warm clothes even in summer, can really save your life.

If you need the mountain rescue call 999 and ask for the police.

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