Rescue was one of the most difficult
FRESH details have emerged over the dramatic mountain rescue of two men lost on Lugnaquilla Mountain in treacherous weather conditions.
There were serious concerns that the pair would end up succumbing to the freezing weather after spending close to 21 hours on the mountain, and at least 16 of them lost, writes Myles Buchanan.
34-year-old Pat Doyle of Wicklow and Meath man Keith McDonnell started their descent from the top of Lugnaquilla on Monday, February 9, at 4 p.m. when strong winds caused them to lose their map as it blew away.
With freezing fog reducing visibility, they tried to find a familiar route to descend.
By 8.30 p.m. they realised their efforts to descend were proving fruitless and contacted Wicklow rescue services.
Finding the men was made incredibly difficult as visibility was as low as five metres at times due to the freezing fog. They stayed in contact with mountain rescue personnel at 30 to 40 minute intervals.
Once it became clear that the rescue teams weren’t going to reach the men before daylight they were advised to ‘dig in’ to the snow for the night to try and protect themselves from minus 3 temperatures. Hypothermia and exposure were two major concerns.
At this stage other mountain rescue teams from around the country were called for assistance. The Search and Rescue Dogs Association was also called into action.
As soon as some daylight appeared, rescue teams from Mayo, Kerry, Leitrim, Sligo and Northern Ireland were joined by the Ogwyn Valley Mountain Rescue team from Wales, who were flown over in RAF Sea King helicopters.
Members of the Army Ranger Wing, taking part in a training exercise, were also deployed to help with the search.
White out conditions in some places made it virtually impossible to tell land from sky or the gradient of the terrain.
With the clock ticking down and concerns over the safety of the two men growing by the minute five helicopters were also used in the rescue mission. They were finally located at 12.30 p.m. by army rangers.