RAF Mountain Rescue Training in 1980
Most people have heard of the RAF Mountain Rescue service but know little about how it has progressed from its formation in WW2.
Probus Club of Basingstoke member, retired RAF Squadron Leader Chris Perkins MVO, was a member of the RAF Mountain Rescue service for several years and he recalled a significant training expedition to Mt Rainier, at 14,410 feet, a dormant volcano in the Cascade mountains of Washington State in the northwest of the USA.
It was a major project involving 15 personnel selected from RAF Mountain Rescue teams in Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire. The majority had alpine snow and ice climbing experience, and many were winter mountaineering instructors.
At this time, Chris was an Air Traffic Controller at RAF Valley on Anglesey. During daylight hours it was busy with high intensity training for young pilots but the night time hours in the radar room proved ideal for planning the expedition.
RAF Brize Norton provided a VC10 transport plane, on an operational schedule, to move the expedition to Sacramento, California and home again from Calgary in Canada. A British Army exchange officer proved instrumental in organising a USAF C130 aircraft to take the party onwards close to their destination where they arranged transport hire, base accommodation, ration purchase and connected the expedition with the Department of Emergency Services in Washington State.
Climatic conditions throughout the expedition were ideal. Day time temperatures rarely fell below 30 degrees Celsius, and the nights remained clear but cold at height. Such conditions aided the night time ascent of Mt Rainier, however, they caused numerous objective dangers on the descent from opening crevasses, collapsing ice bridges and rock falls.
The expedition succeeded in providing the team with experiences they could use in some future emergency in extremely difficult terrain. It was only made possible with invaluable military and civilian assistance. Evidence, perhaps, of the special relationship so often talked about between our two nations.
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