Sore and numb, but survivor is determined to climb again
LAST WEEK’S rescue was one of the most dangerous undertaken by the rescue teams due to the high winds and heavy snow on Lugnaquilla.
‘Visibility on Monday night was very very poor. There was howling winds and it was bitterly cold. At one stage everything everyone was wearing including their rescue packs were covered in a layer of ice,’ says PRO of Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team (DWMRT), Paul Gilbert.
‘My beard had ice in it and other people had ice formations on their eyelashes. The switches on our head torches were frozen and the water in our water bottles was starting to freeze.
‘The terrain on Lugnaquilla is very difficult at the best of times and there was up to 18 inches of snow on it last week. The winds were between 70 to 100km/h and the temperature was between -8 to -10 with wind chill. It was difficult to keep our own spirits and morale up while also trying to concentrate.’
The first team of rescuers hit the mountain at 10 p.m. on Monday night when the call came though. SORE AND numb but determined to climb again Rathdangan’s Pat Doyle is recovering from his ordeal on Lugnaquilla last week.
Pat (36) spent 21 hours close to the summit of the mountain with fellow climber, Keith McDonnell last Monday night and Tuesday morning.
‘My right foot is a bit sore and I have numbness in both my hands but it will go within a few days. There is no nerve damage or anything. I will definitely climb again. It’s my passion. It’s part of what I do, of who I am.’
When their map blew away and they realised they would have to spend the night up on the mountain Pat and Keith chose a spot with a strong mobile phone signal and settled in as best they could but it was a long night.
‘It was not a question of being afraid. I knew with the gear I was carrying I could make it through. It was about where we could get the best protection. I don’t know what the temperature was but there was biting winds all night.
A call which comes in from 999 is routed to a call out officer who will then notify the rescue team.
They will then contact the person in trouble to assess the level of danger.
There are two types of response, a very focused one or a full-team call out.
Members of the DWMRT carry pagers which are activated when a call comes in detailing the rendezvous point for the rescue and a brief description of the rescue itself.
The members contact the call out officer to let them know if they can respond or not. If they can it’s off to the rendezvous point for instructions. ‘It was a long time. I didn’t come down until just before 8 a.m. on Tuesday.’
When he got the call on Monday night Paul had been up since 7 a.m. that morning. He had completed a day in work, worked late, came home and had his dinner. He had literally sat on the couch when he got the call and was off again without a second thought.‘It was a long and difficult night and we weren’t even half way through the rescue. People were out on the hill in conditions that nobody wanted to be out in.’
Paul said that given the horrendous weather conditions he was certain that Pat and Keith would not survived another night on the mountain.
‘Once we knew they were found and being cared for it gave us a great sense of relief. Everyone knew how serious the situation was. Joe O’Gorman who is an advanced paramedic with the HSE spent the night on the phone to them. We were aware that Keith was on a blood thinning drug which would have had an impact on him because of the cold and it was a cause of concern to us.’ ‘We just concentrated on staying awake and got up on a regular basis to move around and keep our circulation going. I knew it was going to be a hard night and a problem but I knew what to do as I had done a bit of winter climbing.’ That night Pat and Keith kept each other awake telling jokes and singing. Pat said he had scaled Lugnaquilla the previous day without incident but when the map blew away they were left without any way of getting their bearings in the dark.
‘I personally felt that we were going to get off the mountain rescue. I was confident that if the mountain rescue didn’t find us in daylight that I would be able to get us down.’
Shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning Pat and Keith were attempting to move down the mountain when they heard rescue teams above and below them. They then moved back to their original position which was safer and waited for help.
Pat’s mother, Haddie, was blissfully unaware of his situation until about an hour before he was found by the rescue team as Pat had told his sister to tell their mother that both he and Keith were spending the night in Glenmalure having had a few drinks after their successful climb.
Pat was full of praise for the volunteers who took part in the rescue and paid tribute to the hard working members of the local and national mountain rescue teams.
‘They were absolutely fantastic. They are heroes; it’s as simple as that. They do it all on a voluntary basis and the personal cost to them is absolutely immense. Most of them said last week that it was the most difficult conditions they had ever seen. I have nothing but good to say about them.’
Rescue teams on top of Lugnaquilla during last week’s search and rescue.
SURVIVOR - Pat Doyle.