Walkers reported lost above Abergynolwyn
July 16, 2023
At around 1:45 p.m. on Friday 15th July, call-handlers from Aberdyfi Search & Rescue Team were made aware of a fragmented call for help received by the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, and passed on by North Wales Police.
The message mentioned that one or more people were “stuck on mountain” and “freezing” but the call disconnected before any further details could be gathered. All subsequent attempts by WAST, NWP and ourselves to call the number back went straight to voicemail.
A recent development means than there is a degree of location data associated with a 999 call. It is standard practice to double-check this with other techniques, but in this instance, it was all the information available. As the caller had requested the Ambulance service rather than the Police or Mountain Rescue, there was also a nagging concern that, although nothing was mentioned beyond being cold, that someone was injured.
A 4×4 vehicle with two Team volunteers was quickly dispatched to the given location, a forestry fire-road high above Abergynolwyn, but the location was empty. The pair searched the immediate area before sweeping the service roads of the forestry block beyond and down to Corris Uchaf. Meanwhile, a second party deployed on foot to sweep the adjacent ridge-line, and another volunteer swept the forest roads on the Pantperthog side of the ridge. A number of Duke of Edinburgh Award groups were encountered in the area but there was no further evidence that anyone was in difficulty.
With no further information to work with, the search teams withdrew off the hill shortly after 6:00 p.m. The hope was that if someone was still in trouble on the hill, then once they became overdue returning home, then someone would raise the alarm with more information about vehicles, proposed route etc. Alternatively, if they had self-rescued, then they would recharge or switch on their phone and respond to some of the many attempts at contact left by us and other agencies.
The phone was still going to voicemail at 8:00 a.m. the following morning which was a cause for concern. This was flagged-up to NWP who went away to review the log and did some work on the phone. Initial results confirmed that the phone was off the network. It was associated with a business in the Midlands, and it had rung a couple of numbers after calling the ambulance.
The numbers being called provided a further line of enquiry for NWP, and about half an hour later they called back to say they had established who the caller was (part of a DoE group) that they were safe and well, and that NWP were considering the incident closed.
Team volunteer Graham O’Hanlon helped coordinate the rescue. “Many of the Team first developed their love of the outdoors through organisations such as the Scouts or through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, and these remain key in helping bring on the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. Part of that journey is the experience of having a crisis of confidence, but then realising that, as an individual or as group, you can work it out for yourself. We are more than happy to turn out for anyone who feels they are in trouble, but it is really important that, if you manage to sort yourselves out, that you let us know, no matter how embarrassing if feels to admit you had a wobble. We spent around 52 man-hours on an unnecessary search, keeping volunteers away from their work, family and homes, and it would also have significantly affected our ability to respond to other call-outs had they arisen.”