from the scotsmanA PARTY of anglers and another of climbers faced criticism yesterday after triggering separate "needless" major emergencies.
The leader of one of Scotland's busiest mountain rescue teams said the operations, which involved more than 50 people, were caused by irresponsible actions. The companion of a missing climber failed to inform the emergency services that his friend had returned safe and well to their camp. The anglers were reported to have been drinking heavily.
Donald MacRae, the leader of the Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team in Ross-shire, yesterday said that the two weekend searches had tied up valuable resources and could have potentially put lives at risk.
He claimed the call-outs would have left rescue teams severely stretched had they been needed for a genuine emergency in one of Scotland's most remote areas. Mr MacRae said the members of the Dundonnell rescue team had already been deployed to search for a 64-year-old climber, reported missing on Mam Sodhail in a remote area at the southern end of Glen Affric, when they were alerted about an angler who had gone missing at a loch near Ullapool.
Members of the RAF Kinloss and Torridon mountain rescue teams were called out to respond to the Ullapool emergency. A helicopter was also sent from RAF Lossiemouth.
Mr MacRae said: "The members of the Dundonnell team set off just before 5am on Sunday morning to search for the climber who had been reported missing in Glen Affric. It takes a while to get there and the team were still responding to the emergency when we received the alert about the missing angler and the rescue teams from Kinloss and Torridon had to be called out.
"The chap who was missing had turned back up at the campsite late on Saturday evening but the climbers failed to notify us until we found them. That caused the rescue to continue and endanger our lives as well as protract the rescue."
Mr MacRae said the missing angler had been traced by the Torridon and Kinloss rescue teams, less than a mile and half from where a party of fishermen had been camping.
He added: "There is a suggestion that the group had been drinking heavily and it is believed that may well have been a strong contributory factor in the angler going missing. My understanding is that quite a large of amount of alcohol had been consumed by the party of anglers and it was bit difficult to extract information from them. We had to deal with people who were clearly not coherent in their thinking process."
Mr MacRae branded the actions of the two groups "irresponsible". He added: "I don't mind people enjoying themselves, but they have to be responsible.
"Their actions resulted in more than 50 people being tasked to deal with these two rescues. And if there had been a genuine emergency, late on Sunday morning, it would have had to have been done by 50 tired guys. I would ask people who are out to enjoy themselves outdoors to act responsibly and remember they have to be well-equipped and be prepared for whatever venture they are involved in.
"There could have been a real emergency elsewhere in the hills and we could have been severely stretched. We also had search and rescue dogs and their handlers deployed to both incidents, drawing people in from as far away as Ballater.
"And these were two rescues which, with a bit of responsibility from each party, should never have happened."
A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: "We can confirm one man reported his walking companion missing during a walk on Mam Sodhail. When rescuers arrived both men were located in their tent some distance from where the man had been reported missing. It is understood both men refused to leave the hill."