A ROYAL Navy helicopter pilot from North Yorkshire helped save the life of a climber stranded on a mountain ledge in freezing conditions.
Emergency services were alerted after the climber, who had been out in the mountains in Glen Coe, Scotland, since 8am on Thursday, had failed to return to his accommodation that night.
Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team was unable to find the walker in blizzard conditions with 50mph winds. The Sea King Mark 5 from HMS Gannet in Prestwick, Ayrshire, was scrambled and was on scene by 6.05pm.
Lieutenant Commander Craig Sweeney, a former student of Harrogate Grammar School, was one of the pilots, and described the flying conditions as “probably the worst I have ever experienced in the mountains”.
Lost on the 3,658ft Stob Coire nan Lochan, the helicopter located the man at about 2,500ft on a ledge with an overhang above it and nothing below.
Lt Commander Craig, 38, who was the incident aircraft commander, said: “It was an extremely dark night and absolutely freezing. We managed to speak to the casualty on his mobile as we were flying up and he was very confused. The signal was bad, but we established he had a torch and we advised him to shine it for us once he heard the helicopter so we could locate where he was.
“When we got up the mountain, we could see a number of torch lights and we knew there were five members of Glencoe Mountain Rescue also up there.
“We asked them to actually flash their torches, which meant we knew that the one remaining rather dim torch we could see, which didn’t flash, was most likely our casualty. And, luckily, it was. He was in a really difficult place on a small ledge with an overhang above him. Air temperature on our instruments was -8 degrees C and with wind chill I’d hazard a guess that it was probably more like -20.”
The climber was winched to safety and was transferred to Belford Hospital and kept in briefly for observation, but has since been discharged.
The team’s commanding officer, Squadron Leader Jon Heald, said: “This prompt reaction most likely saved his life – the response was extremely ‘can-do’ and effective.”