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Recent dry and bright winter days appear to be attracting walkers and climbers out into the hills, with Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team called out three times in as many days in the past week.
It was almost the rare occurrence of a call-out free January for the team until late on Saturday afternoon, when police received a report of two climbers in difficulty in Minus Two Gully on Ben Nevis.
A Police Scotland spokesperson told us: ‘Members of the local mountain rescue and coastguard teams attended, including air support, and both the men were recovered safely around 5.45pm.
‘There were no injuries and both were issued with fixed penalty notices for breaching coronavirus regulations.’
Then on Sunday, team members were in action again, this time on Creag Meaghaidh with eight team members dropped onto the summit plateau to assist two climbers in difficulty on the North Face of Ben Nevis at around 6pm.
In a statement, Police Scotland said: ‘Both climbers were uninjured and no further police action was required.’
Monday night then saw 16 team members out on Castle Ridge for around seven hours, assisted again by Rescue 151 (Coastguard helicopter). LMRT commented on its Facebook page. ‘We were able to get to the two local lads and get them off the hill safe and sound.’
However, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said the best way to stay safe is to stay at home.
‘To protect the NHS we also need to protect our volunteers and emergency service colleagues who, by the nature of their work, put themselves at risk each time they’re called to an incident,’ he said.
‘Particularly at the weekends we are seeing people travelling for leisure purposes outwith their local authority areas and sometimes getting caught out by the change in weather conditions.’
The substantial helicopter activity around Ben Nevis at the weekend, however, has drawn a complaint of excessive disturbance, with one resident who lives between Inverlochy and Carr’s Corner saying on one of the weekend’s rescues, the Coastguard helicopter flew low over his house no less that 28 times until the early hours of the morning.
‘It was unbelievable. No one is decrying the work carried out by brave mountain rescue team members who provide an invaluable service,’ said John Carmichael who has been a local resident for 52 years.
‘But the helicopter was so low, what seemed like almost tree height, that the vibrations were causing cups and crockery to rattle. I know of several other people under the flight path who said the same thing, with one lady saying her children couldn’t get to sleep because of the noise.’
Mr Carmichael claims that such problems did not exist when the military provided the search and rescue (SAR) helicopters and only became a problem after the role was privatised.
Bristow Helicopters won the contract in 2013 to deliver the UK’s SAR helicopter service for HM Coastguard.
Asked to comment, a Coastguard spokesperson told us: ‘In regards to the flight path of our helicopters during these two incidents; their respective courses of travel would have been most likely determined by the crew in line with the weather conditions at the time to ensure safety; while factoring in the direction of onward travel and designated landing sites.’