Team celebrates it’s 50 years of service

On Saturday 17 November, one of the busiest rescue teams in the UK is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a celebratory evening at the Victoria Hotel in Llanberis when the Teams current and former members and friends will have an opportunity to meet and reflect. Everyone will have a wealth of memories and accounts of call-outs during their period of service.

It will be an opportunity to recall how the Team has developed over the decades, reminisce over past incidents and events and recall the camaraderie and friendships forged often in difficult circumstances. 

Much has changed since the first committee met in May 1968. The embryo team consisted largely of mountain centre staff and local mountaineers and what little equipment they possessed was housed in these centres. In the early days they responded to about 30 incidents annually. Today the Team consists of 60 members who respond to call-outs on an almost weekly basis. During 2017 the total amounted to 220 call-outs and to date this year the number has reached 221. This might account for the delay in arranging our celebration evening!

From 1973 the team was housed in the garage of the then newly created National Park Warden Centre in Nant Peris thanks to the support of The Senior Warden, John Ellis Roberts. Over decades rescues began by members congregating in the garage and rolling the trailer out of the way. Space was certainly extremely restricted for the co-ordination of rescues as well as for storing our ever-increasing pile of equipment. When the Park Authority departed the building in 2013 the Team jumped at the opportunity to accept the tenancy. Therefore, after 40 years based in the garage the Team had access to the whole building and turned it into a more purpose-built resource at a cost of £25,000.  

The base now houses a new, 21st century operations room, an equipment store room, kitchen and toilet, together with a large multipurpose hall. The extra space allows more appropriate room for mustering and deploying teams or for comforting casualties. During the last five years three new purpose-built Land Rovers costing around £150,000 have been purchased to transport the Team to the hill.

Over the years team members, equipment and techniques have changed and evolved. One thing that has remained a constant for the Llanberis team is its ethos; we are essentially a group of climbers and mountaineers who use our skills and knowledge to helps others when they need it most. From the very start we have striven to educate and not to criticise, a sentiment which began with the “MountainSafe’ venture and has led to the development of the ‘Adventure Smart Wales’ project. This is a multi-agency project aiming to educate potential mountain users how to make their ‘good day better’. 

Our beginnings were as an ad-hoc collective of local mountaineers and outdoor instructors using improvised equipment. Today, Llanberis and our sister teams are now an essential component of our local emergency services providing a highly professional service while maintaining our status as volunteers. Our 200+ incidents a year bring us into regular contact with the Police, Ambulance, Fire and Rescue, Coastguard, RAF and EMERTS. We are looking forward to welcoming them all to our celebration.

"It's great to see visitors enjoying the mountains of Snowdonia," said Alun Allcock, chairman of the Llanberis team. "Certainly the Government’s goals of economic well-being and healthy living seem to have been successful if the numbers of visitors to our hills are seen as a benchmark," he added. "But, inevitably, the number of call outs have similarly increased over the last decade."

As for the future, the team looks set to deal with an ever-increasing number of call outs. Something which is already being addressed: "Discussions with the politicians in Cardiff have started with the hope of greater support not only towards the support of teams and the upkeep of bases, equipment and transport but also towards educating the public about the need to prepare properly before venturing on to the mountains, to respect the mountain environment and to enjoy their experience safely," said Alun Allcock.