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Thousands of hours spent on callouts by volunteers from Scottish Mountain Rescue teams in Covid-hit year, report shows

By John Davidson

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Assynt Mountain Rescue Team in training during the pandemic.
Assynt Mountain Rescue Team in training during the pandemic.

Scottish mountain rescuers spent more than 24,000 hours in 2020 helping people on call-outs in nearly 500 incidents.

The figures come in the Scottish Mountain Rescue annual review, which has just been published.

The review covers the whole of 2020 and looks at the work of the volunteer rescue teams, team member profiles and rescue stories, as well as achievements that have been made over the year.

It shows that, despite the effects of the Covid pandemic, rescue teams were almost as busy as an average year, responding to 497 incidents compared to 502 in 2019.

SMR represents 25 of the 28 civilian rescue teams in Scotland and its work includes fundraising, organisation and delivery of national training courses and events, provision of insurance and supply of equipment, liaising with Police Scotland and Scottish Government and international rescue organisations and co-ordinating good practice.

It say that the review reflects on an unusual year and the huge amount of work carried out by the teams to adapt to an ever-changing environment, ensuring that an effective and efficient service could be delivered by the mountain rescue teams across Scotland.

The document notes that while callouts reduced significantly after the lockdown in March 2020, teams were significantly busier in the pre- and post-lockdown periods as people headed out into the hills in search of adventure.

SMR chairman Damon Powell said: "The end of the lockdown period in July meant a welcome return to the hills for many and also a first visit for many more, this led to rescue teams across Scotland having their busiest ever summer period with the teams nearer to the major conurbations being particularly busy.

"Centrally for SMR the coordination effort of the first few months was enormous and the willingness of everyone to find the time to help and support, whatever they had going on in their own lives at that point, was genuinely humbling."

The 25 teams gave up 24,401 hours during callouts in 2020, plus many more in training exercises, and 627 people were rescued, along with nine sheep and dogs.

Scottish Mountain Rescue annual report for 2020.
Scottish Mountain Rescue annual report for 2020.

A total of 289 of the 497 recorded incidents were related to mountaineering.

The Glencoe, Lochaber and Cairngorm rescue teams are independent of Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Kev Mitchell, vice chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said “We hope the production of our annual review will give the general public a flavour of the hard work and commitment shown by Scottish Mountain Rescue team volunteers and, while we are proud of 24,401 hours of volunteering on callouts, this figure can easily be doubled when training activities are taken into account.

"A truly magnificent effort from SMR teams who have faced challenge after challenge with the changes Covid-19 has thrown at them but, despite this, continue to carry on volunteering to Save Lives, Any Hour, Any Day, Any Weather.”

The report can be viewed at https://issuu.com/scottishmountainrescue/docs/smr_annual_report_2020-_online_final

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