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Two walkers rescued by Navy SAR helicopter

Published: 06 Mar 2014

A Royal Navy helicopter has rescued two walkers from the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe. The pair had been on the mountain overnight and were mildly hypothermic and very tired – one of the two had a minor leg injury, but they were otherwise unharmed.

They had not intended to spend the night on the Buachaille but had got caught out in the conditions as darkness fell – the men were well-equipped and raised the alarm in the morning.  

The Sea King Mark 5 from HMS Gannet in Prestwick was scrambled at 9am yesterday (Tuesday March 4) and, once on scene, almost immediately located the walkers. Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team had also been alerted and had gathered at the foot of the mountain.

It was not, however, a straightforward rescue, with 60mph winds at the summit of the 3,350ft mountain, creating both strong up- and downdraughts.  

“Although we found the walkers very quickly, we had to abort our first attempt to get in close to them,” said Lieutenant Commander Martin Lanni, aircraft commander and one of the pilots.

“The helicopter was caught in a strong downdraught and, as we were unable to hold any kind of stable position safely, we were forced to fly away from the scene.  

“At the second attempt, however, we did manage to get in closer. We considered winching to reach them, but, again, the volatile, strong wind – this time creating strong updraughts – was causing us to have to fight to maintain any kind of steady hover.  

“We elected instead to try and land the helicopter, which we did manage relatively close to the walkers, although I was concerned the updraughts might actually blow us off the mountain. It was one of the few times I wished the 9.5-tonne helicopter was a bit heavier.  

“The summit of the mountain was completely covered in snow and the bitterly cold wind was whipping up clouds of ice, even though the sky looked clear and sunny.  

“Our observer [navigator] Lieutenant Commander Rob Suckling battled his way across to the walkers – at one point he had to sit down on the snow for fear he was going to be blown over on the exposed ridge – checked they were ok and got them safely on board the aircraft. I’d say they were pretty relieved to see us.  

“We then transited carefully down the mountain to deliver them into the care of Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team at the bottom.”  

The helicopter was, by then, light on fuel and diverted to Killin to take on more before returning to base at Prestwick.


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