Well I was sat having my morning brew before work in Pete’s Eats yesterday, trying not to think about what I have seen upstairs on the alternative menu. Incidentially there was a man exposing ourselves to us the other night, although the girls I was with might have encourage him. This is by the by though as I read this great story from the Daily Post on a totally botched rescue attempt from a Duke of Edinburgh Award Assessor, who attempt to go to the aid of the group he was remotely supervising.
It would appear that the group got totally lost. They were meant to go from the Pen Y Grywrd up to Glyder Fawr and then across to Glyder Fawr, before heading down to Ogwen. Instead the group ended up in Cwm Cniefion, which isn’t a bad mistake in poor visibility. As the navigation on the summit is notoriously hard. However it does beg the question, that just because the group had planned the walk and had the route assessed by the local Duke of Edinburgh Head Assessor, who happens to be based out of Plas Y Brenin, why they choose to make such an walk in very difficult conditions.
Especially in place that is hard to navigate, and surround by steep and dangerous ground. It is often the ridged sticking to the ‘planned’ and officially sanctioned routes that can lead to problems when the weather is poor. A do or die mentality often prevails within Duke of Edinburgh groups, certainly those that I have been involved in rescuing off the hills have been. In one particular case the group almost refused to come down off the hill with the rescue team, despite having one of the group stretched down the hill and then airlifted to hospital. I think we had to say that if they went up we would as a team contact the local Duke of Edinburgh assessor and request that they fail.
Anyway back to the group, they somehow, managed to end up on steep ground and radioed their assessor for help. It would appear that he managed to reach the group before the rescue team, and fall a reported 20m, although my guess is it might well have been less, as 20m is a long way to go only to lacerate a knee!
What I really liked about this story was the MR spokeman said “there were lessons to be learned” and the Duke of Edinburgh awards spokeswoman said that the group reacted correctly. So who do you believe a spoke persons from somewhere in London or other office or the local rescue team.
Now I for one don’t want to see something good for youth development as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme end. However there are some very important question that I feel the organisation needs to look at. One being the ridged sticking to a route planned for a given weekend or week, sometimes months in advance and then stuck to come hell or high water. Despite the group often having to make ‘contingency plans’. The fact that the assessor ended up needing rescuing, and was in a worse state than the group, makes me that he just didn’t have the sort of experience to make the sort of judgements you need to make in mountains.
Snowdonia is a mountainous region and not merely hillwalking. Mountains are serious and need to be treated that way, if a DoE group doesn’t have an experienced assessor or trainer then they need to hire in suitably qualified and experienced professionals. Remote supervision is a skill, personally I don’t believe that it should be done from the road in Snowdonia, when I have remotely supervised groups, I have been on the hill and intercepted the group at key areas of risk. I once followed a group in bad weather over the glyders. I was 40ft behind them for over a kilometre, and the group didn’t realise I was there until they saw me pass them after I observed them choose and start to follow the right path.
I also think that for some groups the preparation has been rather sub standard. Which begs the question who is training them, and has the DoE organisation looked into the incidents of their groups needing rescue, and found a pattern or trend. I suspect that inadequate training and inexperience in supervision in mountainous areas might well be a common factor. Over the years I have been called out to several DoE groups, and thats just on Snowdon in the whole country.
In terms of statistics, if they are having that many accidents and need foe rescue it is only a matter of time until one of the children that this experience is meant to help develop, will die. It has happened in Australia. Although Prince Edward the now Chairman of the scheme made an outspoken comment just like his dad, saying the death had made the scheme more popular.
It took the death of the a young Scout in 1999 for the Scouting movement to go back to the drawing board for its accreditation scheme for leading its young members in mountainous terrain. Anyway probably just a storm in a tea cup, however if the Duke of Edinburgh scheme doesn’t want to get a bad reputation then it should really consider getting expert help from people who are experience at training leaders to train young people. I am sorry but I personally don’t believe that currently the scheme has a robust assessment of who is training the kids, and who is supervising the groups, and making decisions as to whether the routes are appropriate for the weather that day.
Anyway, that my opinion on the matter. Rant out.