The verbal description of the casualties’ location did not match the map and so SARLOC was used to establish an accurate position. SARLOC, a recent innovation in Mountain Rescue, is a protocol for smart-phone carrying casualties, and makes use of an Internet link delivered by SMS. If a connection can be made, the website then quizzes the GPS function on the phone and sends an accurate position to the rescuers. The resulting grid-reference placed the casualties more than 17 km away from their reported location, near Pumlumon Fawr and in a position that matched their verbal description.
ASART volunteers, along with colleagues from Brecon, Central Beacons, Western Beacons and Longtown Mountain Rescue Teams, made their way to the remote spot, and despite the high winds and driving rain the casualties were soon reached. Both were extremely cold, and were treated for the effects of hypothermia. With the provision of food, warm drinks and dry warm clothes, the man re-warmed sufficiently to be escorted off the hill on foot, but the woman remained in a poor state. In very cold patients, the act of walking can potentially initiate further complications and so it was decided to evacuate her by stretcher. Both casualties were down off the mountain by 10:30 p.m.
In the meantime, another member of the party had turned up in Hafren Forest, some 6 km to the east of the casualty site, and it became apparent that a further four women from the party were unaccounted for. They had apparently intended to head due-south from the casualty site to meet the main road, but it was suggested they had neither map, compass nor lights. Other search parties started sweeping this area down to the main road while the stretcher party was busy with the evacuations, and once down off the hill these volunteers were re-tasked to join the search for the missing women. The poor weather conditions meant that helicopter assistance was not available.
A party of ASART volunteers was deployed to sweep Hafren Forest, while another party searched a remote valley north of the casualty-site. At around 1:30 a.m. this northern party located the women, who were cold but in reasonably good spirits. After giving them food and warm drinks, they were escorted out of the valley, and had reached vehicles at the road head by 3:00 a.m.
“This is another reminder that people should make sure they are properly equipped and skilled before heading for the mountains” said Graham O’Hanlon from ASART. “If the vagaries of phone coverage had meant that SARLOC could not be deployed, then we would have started our search in completely the wrong place, and it is unlikely that we would have reached the casualties before the effects of the poor weather overtook them. Big thanks are due to the many volunteers from the five teams involved, many of whom would not have seen their beds much before 5:00 a.m.”