Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team celebrate 60 years of service

The team, founded in 1963, has responded to around 2,500 callouts over the last six decades.

The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team (CMRT) is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a reunion of serving and retired volunteers this weekend.

The Cairngorm team estimates that it has had around 2,500 callouts throughout its six decades of service.

Since 1963, they have saved hundreds of lives and often risked their own in the process.

The mountain rescuers in the Cairngorms do it for free and consider it a privilege.

One of their many callouts was on Good Friday, 1991.

A keen climber named Paul Hyett had plunged down a hidden crevasse and ended up trapped 60 feet below between a freezing waterfall and a rockface. A fellow climber raised the alarm.

“When I arrived up this very steep snow slope, I couldn’t find him, and I shouted to the rest of the team, ‘where is he?’ and they said, ‘you’ve just walked over him’,” said John Allen, CMRT team leader at the time.

“And he was underneath the ground, underneath the snow, in this waterfall with a broken thigh, a broken femur, and a broken ankle. So, he really was in serious trouble.”

The Cairngorm Rescue Team has responded to around 2,500 callouts over the last 60 years

“Circumstances just conspired to keep me alive long enough for the mountain rescue team to quite literally come along and scoop me up, and I am eternally grateful,” explained Mr Hyett.

Since his rescue, he has raised thousands of pounds for the CMRT in what he describes as ‘a lasting thank you to the guys who saved his life.’

Similarly to Paul, hundreds of walkers and climbers owe their lives to the work of the Cairngorm team, and many of those have made financial donations as a mark of their gratitude.

Such funding has proved vital throughout the 60 years of the rescue team’s existence, which has seen their work change as the technology advanced.

The team leader, Willie Anderson, said: “There was no GPS; there wasn’t such a thing as a personal locator beacon.

“Going back, if you had an accident on Cairn Gorm, someone had to make their way to the ski carpark and use the public phone there, and that would add hours and hours onto a rescue.”

But it’s not just the available technology that has changed with the times; more and more women are becoming part of the team.

Among them Dr Gemma Munro, who, along with her husband, also a GP, recently joined the CMRT as regular team members.

“The outdoors has been male-dominated for many, many years, but I think that is changing with more females becoming involved in the outdoor scene,” Gemma said.

“They’re taking on more important roles within the mountaineering community, and that can be seen in mountain rescue as well, across the board.”

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