Cave Rescue


Much of the equipment used in mountain rescue is exactly the same as that which is used by mountaineers for rock climbing and ice climbing, and general and alpine mountaineering; even Himalayan mountaineering. Such items as karabiners, slings (tape and perlon), belay items (nuts and chocks, friends, pitons, ice screws, dead men belay plates, etc.), ropes - both nylon and pre-stretched (though pre-stretched are specifically for lowering and fixed rope situations), harnesses, helmets ice axes and hammers, crampons, etc., the list is all but endless.

On top of this is the individuals personal equipment, clothing etc. Consequently a vast amount is used much of which is already familiar to the walker and mountaineer. In an attempt to improve safety standards a recent European Union Personal Protective Directive (PPE) has brought the whole spectrum of mountaineering equipment under review. Whilst covering mostly industrial activity it also covers mountaineering equipment; importantly ropes, helmets, harnesses and technical hardware. The regulations have been awarded an extension of the transitional period, until June 1995. This is to allow manufacturers time to meet the new standards being devised by the committee. Many of these will adopt the U.I.A.A. standards already in force. Products such as ropes and karabiners will have to meet these PPE standards to obtain the C.E. mark. Unlike the UIAA label which was purely voluntary, the C.E. mark will be mandatory. This will be enforced by Trading Standards Officers from January 1st 1994. Of key importance is natural life expectancy. Manufacturers will be required to date equipment and to provide clear guidance on when or how you should determine that a piece of equipment should be discarded. Additional information on the intended use of the item must also be provided. Hence, the implications for replacing equipment and restricting usage to that intended by the manufacturer are implicit within the directive, if one is not to be declared negligent.

Specialist Mountain and Cave Rescue equipment is much less familiar to the walker and mountaineer and is elaborated here:


Bell Mark III:
This is a split stretcher, each half carried on its own pack frame which becomes part of the carrying system when the stretcher is assembled and in use. Additionally, the pack frames can be used as a second lightweight back up stretcher. One half incorporates a collapsable head guard which can be erected quickly, to protect the casualty against possible stonefall when being lowered. The stretcher has four attachment rings for lowering. The handles fold out and additional tapes can be used for carrying. The stretcher's weight is 24 . 74 kg when assembled. It is used widely throughout England and Wales and in a number of countries throughout the world.

The MacInnes and the MacInnes Superlight.
The standard or split model like the Bell comes in two halves each with its own integral carrying system; each half incorporates locking tubular retractable handles. The stretcher weighs 22kg when assembled. The MacInnes stretcher is extensively used in Scotland as well as throughout the world. It has been developed over a considerable number of years. It has very effective skids for lowering on snow slopes. It has also the capability to have a wheel attached for ease of movement over suitable terrain in the long glens. The Superlight weighs 11kg with folding halves and is complete in one piece. It is also capable of having a wheel attached. The Bell and MacInnes stretchers are the mainstay of Mountain Rescue teams in Britain, however there are some others worth a mention;

The Alphin
This is a folding one piece stretcher made by Troll Safety Equipment. It has a polycarbonate bed and short spinal protection strip below the bed. It is narrow and is excellent for constricted spaces, hence its popularity with industry and the Fire Brigade. It handles well on the crag when lowering, particularly horizontally.

The Ogwen
This is used by a few teams, and was developed by Ogwen Mountain Rescue Organisation. For those who see or experience the R.A.F. helicopters in action, these carry and use two different stretchers on occasion; the Stokes Litter (or cradle) or the Neil Robertson Stretcher also used by Cave Rescue


Individual teams use a variety of lightweight bags but the MRC have gone over to a standard heavyweight bag made to our specifications by Aguille Alpine Equipment. This is now M.R.C. standard issue. The bag features a full length zip and is long enough to accommodate the tallest of casualties. The bag has a waterproof lining and fibre pile inner. It has carrying straps and zip access to enable monitoring of the casualty without having to undo the whole bag.


A number of these full body splinting/immobilising mattresses are on trial in England after extensive use in Europe and Scotland. The most effective to date seems to be the Hartwell, but we are working to develop our own design. The ability to effectively immobilise a casualty with back or neck injuries before transportation is vital.


The greatest advances however have been made in medical equipment, which through new technology is now available to mountain rescue and is used by members who have received training in its use. The innovations in such equipment have been many and varied over recent years; some developed primarily for mountain rescue use, some adopted from ambulance paramedic practice.

The 'warm air breathing apparatus' for the treatment of hypothermia (exhaustion/exposure) produces warm air for the patient to inhale, either independently or assisted, by passing air through soda lime crystals after they in turn have had a small quantity of carbon dioxide introduced into them giving a controlled temperature reaction. The 'Reviva' was first in this field, followed shortly afterwards by the 'Little Dragon'.

Other equipment in this field includes oxygen equipment with both automatic and on demand supply, Entonox analgesics gas, intra-venous infusion sets (drip sets), and comprehensive resuscitation sets/kits. For splinting of limbs, etc. a variety of splints are used, from inflatable splints to the more rigid, yet adaptable Kramer wire splint. When traction is needed the Hare Traction Splint and the Donway Pneumatic Traction Splint are more common. For spinal injuries the vacuum mattress is tending to replace spinal boards. The mattress is more adaptable and very useful in multiple injury patients.

The monitoring of bodily function such as pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and electrocardiograph recordings are being carried out using electronic equipment. Evaluation to date suggests that the costs are justified for teams with significant numbers of major medical problems. Pulse oximetry is used to measure oxygen saturation and is a valuable indication for example of an inadequate airway. The equipment is very expensive for outdoor use and has some limitations but is being used to some extent. It is anticipated that this technique will, with further development, become routine. Coupled with the monitoring of heart attack victims is the availability of programmed defribrillator machines. The ability to transmit and receive medical information directly between rescue teams on the hill and the hospital is also being investigated.


Most teams use some type of 'off road' vehicle. All such vehicles are generally 'four wheel drive' and all have been modified/customised to suit individual teams. Most are registered and equipped as ambulances.