The summer months always bring an increase in walkers, hikers, bikers, climbers, tourists and other mountain enthusiasts to the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. This is no surprise, as these mountains offer wild, rugged and stunning scenery, along with amazing walks and hikes, excellent mountain bike trails, challenging crags, and an opportunity to refresh mind and body, and recharge the batteries. Weather dependent of course! Combined with the lifting of restrictions in place due to Covid-19, this meant that large numbers of people descended on the area during July and August 2020, with August in particular proving to be a very busy time for the mountain rescue teams in the area.
Two rescue teams; Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team (DWMRT) and Glen of Imaal Mountain Rescue team (GOIMRT) cover the area, working side by side to ensure that people enjoying these amazing upland areas can rely on a professional-standard emergency rescue service, if the need arises. Never has the importance of having a service like this available been as evident as during the month of August this year. The Wicklow teams, traditionally two of the busiest in the country, were tasked to assist people in distress 25 times (almost one callout a day on average), a 72% increase on the same period in 2019. Many of these callouts were to popular spots such as Bray Head, Glendalough and Lough Ouler; and off the beaten track locations like Bohernabreena, Carrick Mountain and the Dargle Valley.
All team members from GOIMRT and DWMRT are volunteers who give up their time to train hard, and be available 24/7 to respond to emergencies. Whether it be injured walkers and bikers, climbers in difficulty, missing persons, or something else, the two teams are always ready to respond. All team members undergo specialist training to ensure the highest standard of medical care for casualties, but many also specialise in different areas to ensure a rapid, flexible and appropriate response can always be relied upon any time of the day or night. Swift water, crag rescue, drone search capabilities, and a growing search dog capacity are all elements of a multi-faceted response capability. All of these areas of expertise were put to the test in the past month.
Along with the recognised areas of expertise required by mountain rescue teams in Ireland, a new competency had to be added in recent times - how to protect the public and team members from Covid-19. All of society are now coming to terms with the measures that need to be put in place to stay safe in this pandemic. Social distancing, wearing facemasks, thorough washing of hands, and checking for symptoms, have all become part of normal practice. The teams have engaged in extensive training (in addition to our normal workload) to ensure that whilst training, or on live callouts, the possible presence of Covid-19 is planned for.
The volunteers of DWMRT and GOIMRT love nothing more than to see the wonderful treasures of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains enjoyed by all. The Covid-19 restrictions have been hard on everyone, and a simple walk in the mountains can be taken for granted…sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone! However, as the autumn and winter months approach, and hopefully we continue to have the freedom to enjoy all the mountains can offer, please ensure you take the necessary precautions for a safe and enjoyable experience. If you are new to the hills, take the time to get to know what are the best requirements and gear for your chosen activity as this can help prevent you getting into difficulty. Respect the mountains, as help may not be quick in reaching you. Our members are all volunteers who will be there to assist you when the need arises but we much prefer everyone to make it home safety under their own steam, with a story or two to tell, long lasting memories, and that yearning that never really goes away, for your next experience in the mountains.