The highs and lows of rescuing people in danger in the Peak District

Being part of a mountain rescue team isn’t easy.

As unpaid volunteers, team members can be called out at any time, 365 days a year – including Christmas Day.

They can be put in dangerous situations with vulnerable people who may be seriously, or even fatally, injured.

Yet for David O’Sullivan, one of the Derby Mountain Rescue Team, these challenges are what make it important to get involved.

The 40-year-old said: “Sometimes it can be difficult. There are times when you’re called out for a missing person and they sadly die.

“It can take its toll mentally, and it affects everyone in different ways.

“But if you being out there on a cold rock face in the dark is what helps an injured person get back to their family, that’s all that matters.

“I like being outdoors, walking and climbing. The fact that I can do that and help people at the same time keeps me going.”

Outside of mountain rescue, David is an IT consultant and owns his own eCommerce business.

David O’Sullivan (left) got to meet Ross Kemp
(Image: Derby Mountain Rescue Team)

Working in an office one day and scaling cliff faces the next can be a slightly strange experience, he admitted.

Volunteers never know for sure when they’ll be needed – and in mountain rescue, it is impossible to predict what each call-out may bring.

David, who is also the team’s press officer, said: “We don’t really know what to expect until we get there.

“We’re just told to be at a certain place at a certain time, then when we arrive we come up with a plan.

“The circumstances you find yourself in definitely aren’t what many people would consider ‘normal’, I guess.

“The most dangerous things I’ve helped with are large-scale disaster events, like the flooding in Carlisle a few years ago. That was definitely a challenge.

“A lot of people think we solely lookout for lost walkers and fallen climbers, but we’re called to action for a lot more.”

Peak District Mountain Rescue has been called out to floods
(Image: Derbyshire Mountain Rescue Team)

For many, the idea of wading waist-deep through flood water or climbing into claustrophobic caves is the stuff of nightmares.

However, David claimed that with training and experience, these seemingly extraordinary moments become a lot more ordinary over time.

He said: “It can definitely sound sensational what we do, but we do everything in as safe a way as possible.

“Of course, it’s a lot more dangerous on a rock face in the cold than it is tucked up in bed.

“But we train for each possible event we can to try and take the danger out of it.

“We work hard on every scenario and there’s always an experienced, skilled team around you. It’s all about working together to stay secure.”

The winter months can make operations more difficult though, David admitted.

The team can be called out at any time and on any day
(Image: Derby Mountain Rescue Team)

As temperatures plummet and the weather becomes more severe, the conditions for hiking and climbing are far from ideal.

With snow already covering large parts of Derbyshire early this month, David advised those looking to explore the Derbyshire countryside to take as many precautions as possible.

He said: “It’s not all about having specialist equipment, it’s often as simple as having good footwear to stay secure on slippery ground.

“Warm clothing is essential, and it’s always good to have something warm to sit on, like a roll mat, in case any incident does happen or you need a rest.

“It’s also a good idea to have a torch and spare batteries, and to take a hot drink and plenty of food.

“But the big one is to not rely on your smartphone. They’re amazing but they’re not enough, and if the battery dies you’re in trouble.

“Always take an ordnance survey map and make sure you’re not just dependent on one device.”

Derby Mountain Rescue Team forms part of Peak District Mountain Rescue. Those wanting to donate can visit itswebsite.

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