Life-savers of Peak

Mountain rescue - June 1965
Mountain rescue - June 1965
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Today’s edition in the Midweek Retro A to Z of jobs covers a life-saving role that relies on volunteers – mountain rescue.

Seven teams operate in the area covered by the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (PDMRO). The seven teams are Buxton, Derby, Edale, Glossop, Kinder, Oldham and Woodhead.

Picture shows Tess and Che, search and rescue dogs, searching rock crevasses in the Edale district - 9th October 1974

Picture shows Tess and Che, search and rescue dogs, searching rock crevasses in the Edale district - 9th October 1974

The Peak District branch of the organisation was formed in 1964 following the death during the bad winter of 1963 of two climbers in an avalanche in Chew Valley near Saddleworth and the loss of three lives during the 1964 Four Inns endurance walk.

The PDMRO website said: “Prior to then there were few mountain rescue teams in the Peak District. These were uncoordinated and inadequately equipped.”

The 1964 tragedies established the need for the teams that did exist to be coordinated by the organisation and others to be set up.

As mountain climbing and countryside walking moved from being the preserve of the wealthy to activities enjoyed by more people, enthusiasts had to respond to the question of how to help casualties.

A climbing accident in 1928 in the Peak District that showed the extreme difficulties faced by rescuers sparked the eventual formation of the Mountain Rescue Committee.

A member of the Rucksack Club called Edgar Pryor was knocked off a face at Laddow in Crowden in the High Peak by a climber falling from the pitch above him. He broke his skull and thigh bone.

Relays of runners brought up equipment, a splint was made from a rucksack frame and the Crowden path finger post became a stretcher.

However, poor Edgar had to endure being carried for four hours to the nearest road, then the ambulance journey to Manchester Royal Infirmary took 90 minutes.

Surgeon Wilson Hey said that the transport and shock of the journey meant that he later had to amputate his leg.

“The absence of morphia with the transport had done more damage to the limb than the mountain,” he said.

The accident led to the Rucksack Club collaborating with another group to design a mountain stretcher and first aid equipment. The equipment was left at mountain posts, along with morphine paid for by Wilson Hey while he battled for official permission for his actions.

He understood morphine reduces the effect of shock in casualties, which can kill.

Eventually the need to set up teams of rescuers was also recognised following a variety of accidents and searches.

That in turn finally led to centralised coordination of the teams.