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Busiest year on record for Scottish Mountain Rescue volunteers

By Mike Merritt

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There were a record number of call-outs and hours logged for mountain rescue volunteers last year. Picture: Assynt Mountain Rescue Team
There were a record number of call-outs and hours logged for mountain rescue volunteers last year. Picture: Assynt Mountain Rescue Team

Last year was the busiest on record for Scotland's mountain rescuers with a huge rise in call outs, people assisted and hours given by volunteers.

The annual headline statistics for the 25 teams which are part of Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) showed that 715 people were rescued.

That was nearly 100 up on the previous year when there were 627 helped.

The figures include those from the 25 volunteer teams under SMR plus three police teams and one RAF team. However, Scotland's busiest mountain rescue team, Lochaber, as well as Glencoe and Cairngorm mountain rescue teams are not represented by the umbrella body, meaning the true figures will be significantly higher.

For those teams under SMR, there were 660 incidents in 2021 – compared to 497 in 2020. An incident is defined as a single event that requires the services of an MRT.

In total, 52 per cent of the call outs were mountaineering related, which includes hill-walking, scrambling, rock climbing, winter climbing, and MRT activity.

The total number of separate team call-outs was 893, or 951 including ‘continuations’ – linked call-outs on different days.

In 2020 there were 671 call outs – or 715 continuations.

Six incidents involved the rescue of dogs or sheep.

The most common contributing factor to mountaineering incidents was a slip or trip, with 119 in mountaineering incidents; next was being lost, accounting for 50 incidents; and then 48 navigation errors. A fall resulted in 30 call outs.

In total 27 per cent of people assisted in mountaineering incidents had an injury, with 56 per cent involving a fracture.

The most common injury site was the ankle, followed by the lower leg.

In 2021, mountain rescue volunteers gave up 31,799 hours of their time during call outs. That is the equivalent of one person working 795 consecutive 40 hour weeks – voluntarily!

The previous year 24,401 hours were logged.

The busiest day of the week for teams in 2021 was July 3, when there were 12 call outs.

The full detailed statistic report for 2021 is due to be released in early May.

Scottish Mountain Rescue represents 25 volunteer teams – including two Search and Rescue Dog Associations (SARDA), Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation and the Search And Rescue Aerial Association – Scotland (SARAA – Scotland). It also represents an additional three police teams and one RAF team.

The three other volunteer teams operate independently of SMR.

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