Published 31st December 2013, 13:23

    IT won’t be long now, the annual clamour by the ill-informed to try to curb the freedom of those who enjoy the mountains in winter.

    At the first hint of an accident they are there with their pompous soundbites and hoary old arguments, a chance to grind their own personal axe of ignorance against those who dare to try and enjoy themselves. 

    Last year, there was even the suggestion that walkers and climbers should be banned from the mountains during the winter months.

    The impracticalities of trying to bring in such a ludicrous idea were so great that it quickly resembled Monty Python’s ever-growing ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ list. 

    Mountain fatality figures were trotted out - hopelessly inaccurate as it turned out - as a justification for a proposed ban. But then it’s always the ones who shout loudest who have the least to say.

    Meanwhile, throughout all the circus sideshows, Scotland’s mountain rescue teams will just go about their business in their usual unflappable manner. No histrionics, no grandstanding. Just men and women who do what they do without complaint because they can relate to it.

    They don’t stand in judgement of those they rescue, they just get on and do what they have dedicated themselves to doing. It’s ironic they do their jobs so professionally as monetary reward isn’t a factor, while those who scream about the financial burdens of such operations behave like amateurs.

    No, the MRT teams understand that accidents can happen to the best prepared, best equipped and most experienced among us. Things can always go wrong, the trick is to minimise those risks with good practice and the proper training and preparation.

    When I quit my job and went into semi-retirement five years ago, I applied for a place on my local MRT. I never once thought about financial reward. I thought I could make a contribution, even if it was just an extra pair of hands to carry gear.

    What I didn’t realise was that there would be so many others with the same idea, around 30 to be precise. I got down to the final six but the quality of the candidates, some of them ex-forces and 20 or 30 years younger than myself, meant I missed out.

    A couple of years later I was asked if I was still interested as there was another place available but those extra years and a series of niggling injuries made that a non-starter. The moment had gone. 

    It’s always easy to put a price on things, much harder to put a value on them. The constant whining about the cost of helicopters, for instance, is a particular bugbear of mine. Do these people really believe that helicopters are only there for mountain rescue?

    Many years ago, I was airlifted from a mountain in Wales after a fall. I had burst my ankle ligaments and couldn’t walk, but had I been left to my own devices I could have crawled down. 

    However, the MRT guy who was patrolling nearby pointed out that a chopper was exercising a few miles away, so he called it in on the basis that it was better to have a live patient to rescue rather than a dummy.

    We have enough health problems in this country without trying to stop people who are actively trying to lead a better lifestyle.

    Maybe those in a nanny state of mind will only be happy when the whole population has to appear on the streets at 8am for ten minutes of totalitarian aerobics every day. Supervised, of course.

    (First published Daily Record, December 12, 2013)