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Royal Marines help fallen climber in the Lake District

29 February 2024
Two Royal Marines helped rescue a climber who had fallen 65ft down a Lake District fell.

Lieutenant Colonel Mick Trafford and veteran Tris Finn were planning to summit Blencathra via Sharp Edge on the second day of their trip to the national park, but were told by a fellow climber that someone had fallen into a gully and that the Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) from Keswick had been called.

Sizing up the situation and drawing on vast commando experience and training, Tris and Mick determined they were able to reach the fallen climber – despite extremely slippery conditions. 

On getting to the female casualty, nothing immediately indicated anything life-threatening, but she’d temporarily lost consciousness in the fall and had sustained a number of other injuries. 

Drawing on their training, experience and emergency equipment in their daysacks, Mick provided casualty care, including treatment for shock and prevention of hypothermia, whilst Tris coordinated with the Mountain Rescue Team and the paramedic at the MRT’s base. 

The pair knew they weren’t equipped to extract a casualty from this precarious position, and that it would be a number of hours until MRT arrived, so settled in, monitored the casualty and helped keep her spirits up.

“The casualty had taken a really nasty fall in difficult conditions,” said Mick, who is Commanding Officer of Royal Marines Reserve Bristol.

“She was fortunate to have been able to arrest herself where she did. 

“Once we understood the situation, it was immediately clear that without assistance she’d be in increasing danger as time passed waiting for the MRT. 

“Tris and I formed a quick plan and from there experience, training and a bit of decision-making was all that was needed. 

“Delivering casualty care in such precarious conditions is pretty demanding. 

“Tris and I have been oppos for more than twenty years – I couldn’t have picked a better person to be with on the day. 

“Subsequently, we’ve been delighted and relieved to learn that the lady who fell will make a full recovery.”

Tris, who left service as a Major in 2022 and is now a history teacher at Colyton Grammar School in Devon, added: “Mick and I were just glad we were able to help, and keep her comfortable and reassured until the MRT arrived. From a personal perspective, it was an incredibly valuable learning experience that thankfully ended well.”

After about two and a half hours the vanguard of the MRT arrived. The first of the team in the gully brought additional medical equipment, and began making an assessment of the best extraction option. 

Shortly thereafter Tris was able to climb from the gully on a top rope set up by the mountain rescuers, but as Mick was built into the casualty’s platform, and had been leading her care thus far the MRT in the gully were keen to keep hold of him to assist with the casualty.

About 30-40 minutes later, the necessary high anchors were in place to bring in the extraction stretcher. 

As this came down into the gully, they began to prepare the casualty for extraction, including dressing wounds, pain relief and pelvic splinting. 

Loading the injured walker on to the stretcher allowed Mick to get out of the gully with some of the MRT, to be reunited with Tris. 

As the stretcher and casualty were lowered into the re-entrant below, and the remainder of the MRT extracted, Tris and Mick were able to gather up (most) of their kit and make their way back off the hill. 

“Not quite the day we’d planned,” Mick said. “But definitely right place, right time.”

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