Rescue 1: Injured Biker
Shortly before 10:30 a.m. on Saturday 28th September Call handlers from Aberdyfi Search & Rescue Team received a request to assist an ambulance crew with the rescue of an injured motorcyclist near Happy Valley, Tywyn.
The man, in his late forties and from Northumbria, was part of a guided off-road motorbike group exploring a hill-track popular with green-lane groups when he came off his machine. Although the crash was at slow speed, the man landed badly and injured his shoulder.
A Team volunteer who lives locally was quickly on scene and made his way up the track on foot to meet the group, shortly followed by paramedics from a Welsh Ambulance Service crew. Other Team volunteers made their way to the scene with equipment as the man was being assessed, and after the provision for pain relief he was able to walk assisted down to a waiting Team vehicle and then to the ambulance for hospital transfer.
Rescue 2: Trapped Dog
At 1:30 p.m., as Team volunteers had just about stored all the equipment and were settling back into their Saturday, a second call was received, this time from the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), requesting assistance in accessing a dog trapped in old lead mine-workings at Dylife, south of Machynlleth. The rescue of animals is not strictly within the scope of the Team's operation, and for some animals, the capability of the equipment we use. Each request is assessed on it's own merits, and volunteers are made fully aware of the individual situation. In this case, the need for a technical rope system to access the old mine shaft provided an excellent training opportunity, and the dangerous steps that the owners had already taken to access the dog themselves, and would continue to do so, meant that there was a significant risk to human life if we declined to help.
At around 3:15 p.m. and just as the first volunteers were arriving on scene at Dylife, call handlers received word of another call-out, this time a walker with a leg injury on Cader Idris. The dog-rescue party was pared down to the minimum required to operate the system with the help of the fire crew already on scene, whilst one team vehicle and other volunteers still en route were diverted to Minffordd for the third rescue.
At Dylife, the lowering and raising system was rigged without issue, and a Team volunteer was lowered over the crumbling silty lip of the shaft to reach the dog on a ledge a few metres down, and above a much bigger drop. The dog, very pleased to see the red jacket, cooperated beautifully, and was quickly loaded into a bag for transport upwards. Both rescuer and dog were a little dirtier for their troubles, and while the dog was passed back to its owners, the rescuer was hosed-down courtesy of the FRS crew. Everyone was back roughly where they should be within the hour, with the Team volunteers making their way to support call-out No.3 at Minffordd.
Rescue 3: Ankle Injury on Cader Idris
The third incident involved a wild swimmer from London. The woman was one of many outdoor swimming enthusiasts due to take part in the Hurly Burly event which centres on a swim from Barmouth to Penmaenpool on the Mawddach Estuary. Unfortunately the event had been cancelled a couple of days earlier because of the prevailing and forecast bad weather, and the fact that the rivers were running at unusually high levels. However, with the time set aside, child-care in place and accommodation paid for, the woman and her friend had decided to come anyway and to make the most of the time set aside for their Snowdonia visit. Being wild-swimmers, they had already taken a dip in Tal y llyn, and following a recommendation, also swam in Llyn Cau, midway up Cader Idris. Unfortunately, the guidebook focused much on the lake and not so much on the terrain setting, and they were underprepared for the mountain environment in poor weather. The swim in Llyn Cau went well, though was described as "very cold", but shortly after leaving the water the woman went over on her ankle, and could no longer load-bear on it. Cold from the swim, and underprepared for a long wait in poor weather, there was also the risk of hypothermia setting in. Unable to get a phone signal ot the incident site, the woman's friend was forced to move further down the mountain to raise the alarm.
A small party of Team volunteers was despatched to locate the woman, and to assess and stabilise her injuries. She was placed in a group-shelter and given additional clothing to rewarm, but it was evident that she would be unable to walk off the mountain. Whilst inquiries were made about the availability of the Coastguard helicopter, R936, contingency plans were put in place to deal with the difficult stretcher carry down the Minffordd steps. As a number of Aberdyfi volunteers were still in transit from the dog rescue, a request for support was placed with the neighbouring team, South Snowdonia Search & Rescue. This ability to draw on skilled personnel, trained to a similar level and using similar equipment, in order to back-fill any under-resourced incidents makes for a highly robust and effective service, and is one of the great strengths of Mountain Rescue in England and Wales.
Fortunately R936 was available and able to fly in under the cloudbase and land close to the casualty. After a short stretcher-carry, the woman was loaded aboard and flown to Ysbyty Gwynedd for further assessment and treatment. Everyone was safely back at the carpark by 6:15 p.m.