Mountain Rescue Teams(SAR)

Many of us are aware of the existence of this group of dedicated volunteer men and woman who give their time to help walkers and climbers in distress but where did it all start and how does this amazing organization work.


Wandering the hills and mountains had always been a pursuit for the wealthy until the the 1900’s when more people started to explore climbing as a recreational pastime. With the increase in the number of people hiking came more frequent accidents and some tragic fatality’s that could have been avoided with even a basic SAR service.

The accidents had always been there in one form or another but these involved a very small number people and usually those who worked the land but as the incidents mounted up the sizable climbing community started to question the need for a more organized solution to providing help on the mountains and extracting the injured from them.

After a series of accidents which stunned the climbing community, the most notably being the loss of four men who fell to their death in 1903 from scafell, the need for permanent SAR teams became more apparent. Even among the non-fatal incidents it was acknowledged that the lack of proper training and equipment had sometimes contributed to making an already bad situation worse with many sustaining addition injury’s in well meaning but ultimately amateur rescue attempts.

Accessible Useful Equipment

The need for purpose built rescue equipment being on hand in any emergency was becoming obvious with supply posts being set up in key areas and sustained by volunteers from the local climbing clubs. The availability of such equipment greatly reduce time factors in rescues and undoubtedly saved lives in the process.

The process of removing an injured climber from the mountain required a re-engineering of traditional rescue equipment to deal with the challenging environment the SAR teams faced. One major advancement was the invention of the Thomas stretcher, Lightweight and with the ability to be dismantled for easy transport to the accident victim this new technology held the climber in place so that they could be sent down rock faces safely.

Continued Growth and Technology

As awareness grew about the SAR groups and there activities coupled with the ever increasing use of the United Kingdoms mountains more organized teams formed during the preceding years always evolving, learning, developing new techniques and training pushing the whole mountain rescue community forward.

Our move into the always connected digital age has improved the response time and survival rate of any rescue ten fold with mobile phones being the typical point of contact with the combined emergency services. Of all the most recent advances GPS systems have giving the rescue teams a very powerful tool not only in locating accidents but allowing better coordination of rescue efforts. Shared radio frequency’s also give instant communication between all parties involved in any operation allowing the seamless flow of information between the different groups thus making the whole SAR effort more effective.

A Great Legacy

From those humble beginnings to the highly organized system we can be proud of today with professional teams on 24hr standby the values of the SAR teams has always been to help others in need even sometimes at risk to themselves.

This post is dedicated to these teams and the great work you do, although in all my years climbing I have never needed your assistance its always good to know you are ready and willing.

Photos courtesy Helicopter People on mountain

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