Outside Interest: mountain rescue

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 1 Oct 2014

David Sandbrook

SLR director David Sandbrook talks about his enthusiasm for mountain rescue.

How did you get into mountain rescue?

I live in Ashbourne in Derbyshire at the foot of the Peak District and have been a keen hill walker and mountaineer for a long time. This led to me becoming a member of the voluntary Derby Mountain Rescue Team, often seen as the fourth emergency service. 

What does it involve?

This is a 24/7 service and you can get a call out, or 'shout', at any time; work takes priority but it is at weekends when most people get into trouble. It's not all mountains, people vanish from care homes or intentionally go missing and we search urban areas, parks and riversides. The Derby team has 60 members and a rigorous training programme that takes at least 18 months and covers first aid, navigation, search skills and crag work. I love the outdoors and helping people, but that's not enough. You must be able, fit and not afraid of heights – one day you might have to abseil. 

Why do you do it?

I was called out at midnight after a family of four went missing on Kinder Scout, a moorland plateau. Other search teams had not managed to find them; we did at 2am. That's why I do it.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Fortunately all my stories have had happy endings, but there can be fatalities. You have to be prepared to see things you might not want to see. 

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

The most rewarding aspect is using the skills you've been trained in to help others; it also feels good when the rescued people and their families show appreciation.

Are there any similarities between your day job and your role mountain rescue?

There are the physical aspects, of course: planning involves getting out and about. In my career I have been involved in national planning and quarries, for example. I also use maps and do a little bit of navigation in my career. Other similarities are to do with character and temperament: logical thinking, a flair for prioritising and the ability to keep calm under pressure.

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com