Jess' Road to Mountain Rescue
Jess tells us more about how she got involved with Mountain Rescue, and the rigorous selection process that volunteers go through.
"When I moved back to the valleys, I did lots of DofE work, through which I met lots of people who were into the outdoors as well. One guy, Brian, was in the MRT (Mountain Rescue Team) - he mentioned that the team were looking for more members and he said I should apply. I said there’s no way I could do that. It’s way out of my league, no chance. So, he offered me a training evening - which he got in a lot of trouble for, because he didn’t clear it with the leadership!
"When I turned up, I immediately felt at home. All the guys and girls are fantastic, I spent the evening with them and just loved it. It was bucketing down with rain while we were out on the hill. I had a great laugh with them all and was totally up for joining. But, I had the confidence issue again where I felt there was no way I could be in MRT, I’m not a mountain rescuer.
"I applied anyway, got through the application process and they asked me to go for a selection evening, where you meet a Mountain Rescue team member on the hill and they take you out, talk to you, check your fitness, navigation, and whether you work with the team. It was an absolutely rubbish night weather-wise with terrible blizzards, complete white out. The bit we normally climb up was fully iced over. It was challenging, we were out for a good 4 hours on the hill and they were really grilling us for navigation and our fitness. But managed to make it round and then at the end they tell you whether you’ve got through or not. I was expecting a no as I usually do, but I was super chuffed when they passed me. 50% didn’t pass, so I was absolutely over the moon.
"That then started the year’s training that you do before you can move on to be a hill member. I was super keen, turning up every Wednesday. I had a brilliant group of people training with me as well so that was really helpful. Immediately I just felt so at home. Again, it’s that escape from normal life. I could go out there with the boys and girls, just be myself and enjoy the outdoors.
"We then have a test at the end of the year to see whether we’ve learnt enough, which thankfully I passed. Then it’s your probationary period of 6 months, where they give you your pager and see how many call outs you turn up to, see how much training you do, how much fundraising you do. There are lots of different elements you have to be involved in to stay in the team, and I was getting into everything. I don’t want to go down the pub and drink, I want to enjoy the outdoors and help people. That’s the main thing.
"6 years down the line I’m still in the team, and every Wednesday I still get excited about going out in the evening. I think when I lose that that’s when I’ll leave the team. Because that’s very special, if you can look forward to going somewhere on a Wednesday evening when it’s piddling down with rain, that’s a special place. And callouts again, the adrenaline rush I get from that is unbelievable. I’ll be sitting having my Sunday dinner with Nan and Granch, and the pager or the phone will go off and I’ll be like: right, bang, knives and forks down, get the action gear on, off I go.
"Knowing that I’m going out to help someone is what makes it special. Recently we’ve been getting a lot more dementia patients and people in a lot of emotional distress, and I’ve had a lot of that in my family. It’s hard but being in the team has actually helped, because I’ve seen it now and I can understand why people do things.
"Dementia really gets to me because it’s elderly people, and I live with my Nan and Granch. They’re the two most special people in my life, I absolutely adore them. And knowing there’s an elderly person without their family out in the middle of nowhere in the cold and wet, that really gets to me. So, if I can go and help these people, that’s just so special. I remember we found this 80-year-old man in a gorge, freezing cold with hypothermia, if he’d stayed out the night he would’ve gone. Just to take that man back to his family was unbelievable. They were crying, they were over the moon. If I can do that, I’m a happy girl."
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