It’s the final week of April. Spring exhales across the UK. An exuberant wind rushes up the island, rousing the dazed plants and scattering a thick sheet of cloud into discreet, puffy little unfair portions. The rising sun casts their striking sharp-edged silhouettes across the ground. Between them: blazing stretches of grass and heather sway, silent; lochs and lochans writhe and spark like TV static; hills rise from the treeless plains and glow fiercely along the northwestern coast of Scotland. They are huge and tiny. A speckled green carpet stretches to the south, to the east. A flash of white borders the endless blue to the west, to the north. The Earth runs off for miles in all directions. That’s my view, anyway.
Back at HQ, Helly Hansen are launching their new page: Trail Finder. Developed in collaboration with mountain rescue teams around the world, Trail Finder is a one-stop-shop to discover hiking routes, learn all about the mountain code, and pick up tips from the pros on what to pack and how to leave no trace. To run through its ins and outs, and to raise awareness of the incredible work Mountain Rescue Teams do across the UK, HH summoned a rag-tag group of outdoor journalists, including myself, to the coastal town of Achiltibuie, Scotland.
We arrived yesterday evening and met Tim, the fearless leader of one of Hansen’s partnered rescue teams – Assynt MRT. After a night’s sleep, we reconvened refreshed and ready. Tim outlined the day’s itinerary: reach the summit of Stac Pollaidh, execute some mountain rescue training exercises, and learn first-hand just how difficult it is to carry a stretcher a couple thousand feet up. We try to avoid clichés here at Outdoors Magic, but this one is inevitable, so I’ll just say it out of the gate: Wow! This experience opened my eyes to the near endless levels of mental fortitude and physical strength required to be a mountain rescue volunteer. You need to be brave, steadfast, patient. You must remain calm, yet determined, and press on however dire a situation may appear. Plus, the stretcher is seriously heavy. Have I made that clear?