A training exercise with Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team (HVMRT)

If any mountain bike rider takes a bad fall in Kirklees, it’ll be HVMRT who help them out. In an effort to return a bit of this favour, Ride Kirklees offered to provide some “casualties” for a training exercise. HVMRT wanted a scenario with multiple injured mountain bikers so Gordon, Steven and myself volunteered. In many years riding we’ve amassed numerous injuries… ahem… so we were well placed to pretend to be injured. The other Ride Kirklees member there was Don, more importantly he’s also in Mountain Rescue so he was the go between for the exercise.

The training site was the top of Magdelen Road near Meltham. Well we knew that, the Mountain Rescue team had no idea, they were all at the base in Marsden.  For anyone that doesn’t know it, Magdelen Road is far from being a road. It’s a fantastic bridleway downhill that has about 5 different surfaces – grass then muddy ruts then loose rocks, then hard pack then it turns into a farm track road by Ash Royd – well worth a visit if you‘ve not been.

At 8.15am we met at the Meltham End of Royd Road and made our way up to the “crash” site. Don gave us all our instructions for the exercise: Steven had taken a fall and injured his leg; Gordon had had a big smash, broken his collarbone and was dazed and confused (some would say no change from normal there); I was unconscious with a suspected broken pelvis. I felt that unconscious was achievable with my acting skills. The sneaky bit to the exercise is that the other two had no idea where I was. They’d crashed and hit the deck but weren’t sure whether I’d been ahead and was unaware anything had happened.  In “reality” I’d come smashing around the corner to find them both on the deck, blocking the path, and veered off the trail to miss them….unfortunately down a steep slope and mostly out of sight.

Photo 1: Some of the 30 or so team members that rescued us

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So we all got in position then Steven made the call to Mountain Rescue to inform them of the incident.  I made my way down the slope and settled down for a long wait. Due to the weather forecast I’d put my full wets on, and also had a full face helmet so I was warm and toasty. As I was going to be found last it’s over to Gordon for what happened at the top of the trail….

It wasn’t long after the call went in (about 20 minutes-half an hour) before Steve and I heard the voices of the first team members at the rescue site. Steve gave some sharp blasts on his whistle to give them our position-a handy bit of kit in case you do get into trouble!! Straight away the team swung into action, carrying out triage to assess our injuries and gather as much details about the incident as possible. With me being ‘dazed and confused’ after an OTB with suspected head injuries, they put me as the priority casualty. Some of the team patched up Steve and gathered as much info as possible about our ride, plans, group members and what happened, whilst the others gave their full attention to me and my injuries.

Lee was my primary carer, and did an amazing job at working out my injuries, keeping me calm and reassuring me. He carefully carried out a primary survey to ensure there were no other unseen injuries. It was then a case of working out what pain relief I could be given and why. With a suspected C spine/head injury, morphine was out of the question and good old paracetamol and ibuprofen were the best bet. With the type of injuries I had sustained, another team member (sorry can’t remember his name) supported my head in case of any spinal injuries and helped to make me as comfortable as possible. With the typical wind up on exposed moors, a bothy bag was soon pulled out and put over all off us to help keep me warm.

With the bothy bag over us, it became a bit surreal. I could hear loads of things happening around me -snippets of conversation; “there could be a third rider…”, “carry out a sweep of the area”, “get the stretcher” and various radio messages, but couldn’t really fathom what was happening. Throughout all this Lee kept a check on me, making sure I was still conscious, heart rate was good and really important that I was warm and comfortable. It wasn’t till the bothy bag came off that I realised the scale of the operation – 30+ professional mountain rescue volunteers sorting out a ride gone wrong with a calm and efficient manner.

We paused the exercise a couple of times-after all it was training, so that the crew members could chat about what they were doing and the reasoning behind all the decisions being made – a really good bit of reflective practise that we should all carry out to stay on top of our game.

With all plans and options discussed, Lee and the crew got ready to package me up and get me off the hillside…and then they found Mal in a crumpled heap (fast asleep) at the bottom of the slope, and the priorities changed! However my carers stayed with me to make sure I didn’t get any worse.

The amazing thing about how the team work is the efficiency and smooth way that they dealt with the situation. With all that was going on, Lee didn’t falter from his job, and stuck by me whilst other HVMRT members moved on to the new priority of getting more kit – including ropes and ground anchors to help extract Mal. With the numbers of volunteers and some great direction from the ‘incident commander’ (not sure of the exact title!!) half the team were deployed to help Mal, others were working with Steve to get him off to the vehicles and the rest had a stretcher ready and started manoeuvring me onto the vacuum mattress to get me of to the ambulance….

Photo 2: Gordon being rescued

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…So back to me at the bottom of the slope. Errmmmm so I was woken up by someone shouting “rider, if you can hear me raise your arm”. Yep, I’d fallen asleep lying in the heather. I was just about to raise my arm when remembered I was meant to be unconscious. I had my foot at a jaunty angle denoting a broken pelvis, otherwise I was unconscious unless prodded. I think I was a 2 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, although as a non medic I could have remembered that all wrong. My main carer was excellent (as was the whole team to be fair), explaining everything he was going to do to me. As I had the helmet on my field of vision was narrow but anytime anyone did anything they’d warn me. We had a couple of short breaks in the exercise where other team members were able to practice on us. The team medic who was overseeing my part of the exercise prompted the team into some excellent thinking on their feet. There was also a good debate on mtb specific issues such as casualties with a full face helmet. On a non casualty point several people checked out that I was warm enough whilst lying there. I was well prepared, dressed for lying in a field being rained on for some time, however it was a good thing to do.

Photo 3:  Me sleeping at the bottom of the slope

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I’ve been to many events in support of Mountain Rescue but thankfully so far have never needed their services so this was the first time I’d been a customer. Most of us have never needed Mountain rescue, and hopefully never will, however if you did, you’d be blown away by the professionalism and skill from a voluntary organisation. To rescue us there was the best part of 30 HVMRT members hence we need to support them as much as we can……so we need as many people as possible to take part in the Rescue Ride on July 14th. It’s a fundraising bike ride (mtb, road and family routes) for HVMRT. That too is a right laugh to be part of. If you’ve not ridden on the west side of Kirklees it’s a great introduction to some fine trails…and you get to ride Magdelen Road.

https://www.racespace.com/holme-valley-mrt/holme-valley-mrt-rescue-ride-2019?fbclid=IwAR1rZrgoVsRpbc6K5ZCvdVyOqWfqwjZ50A39dJNi0Q1Y-Tt_E9OpEdeXFLQ

We’ll be doing more training later in the year, you’re welcome to join in. All details will be posted on the Ride Kirklees Facebook page.

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