Demand on the rise for North Yorkshire rescue team

The UWFRA team at work (s).The UWFRA team at work (s).
The UWFRA team at work (s).
Battling the elements to save lives in Nidderdale and beyond, the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association dealt with a record number of rescues across North Yorkshire in 2014

Last year the 70 volunteers of the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association (UWFRA) dealt with 50 incidents, beating the previous year’s record of 44.

The youngest victim was an eight-year-old boy who had head and neck injuries having slipped on rocks at Brimham Rocks and the oldest a 79-year-old man suffering from chest pains.

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One major caving rescue required 28 members and a total of 100 man hours at Goyden Pot in Nidderdale to bring a female caver with a suspected broken femur to the surface and onward to an awaiting ambulance.

Surface controller Phill Nelson said that the call-outs were spread across a wide range of incidents rather than any significant growth in a specific type.

He said: “In fact, we had some very pleasing reductions, dealing with fatalities had reached an average of six a year for some time yet in 2013 this was reduced to two and last year to one.

“Searching for vulnerable people missing from the community was down to six call-outs having reached a record 14 in 2013.”

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The record call-outs involved 1,514 manhours from the team, a significant reduction from the 1,915 manhours of the previous year yet dealing with considerably more rescues.

Phill attributed this to a number of factors but mainly the use of advanced technology. “We strive to use the best available technology in our work and these new life saving aids are always on the top of our wish list,” he said.

“We raised funds for a state-of-the-art control vehicle and we now also have technology that can help locate missing people as well as instantly pinpointing and if need be rerouting individual members out searching on the fells.

“In addition we now have a most efficient mobile phone text system to call out members, we simply key information onto a proforma and members can immediately inform us whether they are available, how long it will take them to arrive as well as providing other valuable information for the rescue planning.”

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The team currently has two search and rescue dogs who in the right circumstances play a vital role in the search for missing people.

Phill explained: “The dogs and the members who own and train them are truly amazing, we are so fortunate to have them working alongside us and in all weathers.”

The majority of rescues involved people with injuries or who are reported missing.

Being taken ill on the fells has been a regular situation to search and deal with ranging from cardiac arrests and seizures to heat exhaustion and asthma attacks.

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The ever-increasing demands on the team will result in more and more costs, currently running at £40,000 a year, and this is without any major single expenditure.

High level training and equipment maintenance add to the enormous commitment by the members and it is estimated that this side of their work accounts for a further

5,000 manhours, readily given by the volunteers every year.

The team envisage even higher levels of call-outs in years to come especially following the huge interest in the Dales from the Tour de France.

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The team’s own inaugural Wharfedale Thee Peaks Challenge was a great success and helped bring in much needed funds.

This year’s event is to take place on Saturday, June 27.

Phill and the team aim to build on last year’s triumph.

He said: “It was a brilliant day with an amazing 419 participants taking part on one of the three routes.

“The feedback clearly showed how much they had enjoyed the challenge and the fraternity with many already pledging a return this year.

“The team turned out in large numbers to control the course and it was also a great experience being able to mix and engage with the public in a non emergency situation to explain our work and chat about safety precautions when out enjoying the Dales.”

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Major and additional fundraising efforts will be needed this year for the refurbishment and extension of the association’s headquarters to provide much needed extra space for equipment storage and training facilities. Visit