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Mountain Rescue volunteer praised for daring rescue near Laggan


By Gavin Musgrove

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Stuart King
Stuart King

A Mountain rescue volunteer has been honoured by the Royal Humane Society for saving the life of climber who plunged down an icy and rock filled gully on a peak by Laggan.

Stuart King, who is a member of Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, has been awarded a testimonial on vellum for putting himself in considerable danger to help the severely injured casualty on Creag Meagaidh in February, last year.

The testimonial has been awarded by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra, who is the president of the society.

Mr King, who lives in Acklington, was out climbing with three friends on the peak on a cold, snowy day.

Part way up their climb, they heard a cry of alarm from a lower group of climbers and looked down to see one of the party tumbling down the gully at great speed, and unable to use his ice axe to arrest his fall.

Mr King said: “One of the climbers must have slipped and started falling back down the gully.

"He ricocheted off the gully walls as he fell, and we didn’t expect him to survive because he was not wearing a helmet.”

The climber eventually came to a stop at the bottom of the steep gully, cut off from his friends.

Mr King explained: “A couple of our lads began to climb out of the gully to get a better phone signal so that we could contact local mountain rescue and then head down a safer route back to the bottom of the gully.”

But the experienced mountain team member realised that time was crucial if the man was going to survive knowing the rescue helicopter being dispatched would take some time to arrive.

Mr King took the decision to climb back down the icy gully on his own descending as quickly as possible some 300 metres on steep ice without the aid of a rope.

He said: “I realised that if I fell then I would become a casualty and compound the problem but I also knew that time was critical for this man.”

He completed the challenging descent safely and immediately gave first aid to the casualty who had suffered major trauma to his head and torso, breaking his wrist, fracturing his ribs and damaging his ankle.

Mr King opened and maintained his airway and then attended to his wounds.

He removed the man’s rucksack which was restricting his breathing and could have led to the man dying.

Shortly afterwards one of Mr King’s colleagues also reached the scene and the pair got the man into a survival shelter and made him as comfortable as possible.

Once the rescue helicopter arrived on scene, they helped the winchman load the man into the helicopter and he was flown to hospital.

After a considerable time and a number of major operations, the man has since made a good recovery.

Stuart said: “It was a real team effort. Without the other lads calling for help and also coming down, he would not have survived. I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of all of us.”

The award was presented to Stuart with his family present in his garden by Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue team leader Iain Nixon.

He said: “The presentation was on behalf of the High Sheriff of Northumberland, Tom Fairfax, who, because of Covid regulations, was not able to be present.”

Instead, the High Sheriff and the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police Winton Keenen both sent video recordings congratulating Stuart.

In addition, the mountaineer, author and speaker, Nigel Vardy sent Stuart a message.

All three praised Stuart’s selflessness and his dedication to saving lives.

“I am incredibly proud to have Stuart and his three colleagues in our Mountain Rescue Team.” Iain commended. “Whilst we recognise that it was a team effort in helping to keep the casualty alive and call in the emergency services, without Stuart's incredibly brave climb down, it’s highly likely that he would not have survived.

"He thoroughly deserves this award.”

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT) and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team (NOTMRT) provide a search and rescue service in the Northumbria Police area.

The operational area covers 2,159 square miles and includes the whole of Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.

Calls for assistance include not only search and mountain rescue of walkers, fell/trail runners and mountain bikers in the uplands of Northumberland but also the search and rescue of missing

children and vulnerable adults in rural and urban settings.


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