Well my pager went off at 9.30 last night, and by the time the team to nant was sent out it was gone 10pm before we were at base. A team of nine three peakers, were stuck on the miners track by the intersect with the PYG track. The first team headed up, and I was in a second party assisting them. By the time we got there, one of the casualties was semi-conscious, as the weather was appalling. When I say it was wet I mean it was sheeting it down, not to mention the fog.
I assisted 8 of the group down with another member of the team, which given that we both guide people for a living was like doing pro-bono work. Even more insulting was the fact that they had paid for a ‘professional’ guide. Someone who if actually qualified, which isn’t a pre-requisite in the UK should have been trained and assessed in there ability to navigate and lead at night in such terrain and conditions. Considering all they needed to do was follow a path down it seemed stupid that they had chosen to sit where they were, ‘Frozen with fear” and await rescue.
To me it highlight two things, astonishingly bad leadership for the guide and a more impressive display of ‘group think’, where an idea no matter how stupid seems to a group in panic to be the best option. It is often only in times of stress that the group think mentality comes to the fore. One of the roles of a leader is to stay rational and make ‘informed’ decisions. I will no doubt get in trouble for this assessment of the events with the team, but as a professional mountaineering instructor, but from the skills i try and teach and develop in the Mountain Leaders of tomorrow, I feel that on this occasion a lack of judgement of the group, the weather, the terrain, and the darkness all contributed to the situation.
It appeared that they didn’t even have a group shelter, and certainly when I was leading the group down many of them were traumatised by the ordeal they had unnecessarily been put through. I am told on regular occasion that ‘the teams’ job is not to judge, and by and large I agree but when a ‘professional’ makes such bad decisions, I find it hard to shut up.
I teach a five lemon concept of catastrophe it came from new zealand where they observed that an incident often had a series of bad decision made leading up to it, where each lemon represents a bad decision. So from a mere observational point of view. the group were knackered from Ben Nevis and Scafell (lemon one), The weather was appalling (lemon two), The route would have to be done in darkness and many of the headtorches where inadequate for the job (lemon three), The terrain was rough and in the prevailing conditions with such a group was probably not suitable for them (lemon four), No decision was made to turn round earlier (lemon five), The group didn’t have an emergency shelter (lemon six) and finally rather than keep the group moving the decision was made to go to ground on a extremely wet unprotected hillside (lemon seven).
Whilst many of these decision simply come down to a bad decision on the hill, and every instructor will have made one or two of those in there career, many of them were apparent before the group embarked on the final mountain of there challenge, and no doubt a little summit fever, where an attitude of well we must complete this for the charity we are raising money for and bugger the blood prevails.
These are my opinions and not those endorsed in anyway by Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team. I just have to help put thing right when they go wrong. I returned at 1.30am soaked to the skin.