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Bristow North Sea Pilot Serves as Mountain Rescue Team Volunteer

July 10, 2015

Captain Simon Murray, a Bristow North Sea pilot, is part of a mountain rescue team based in Braemar in Scotland. Captain Murray shares one of his experiences as a mountain rescue volunteer and why he braves sometimes extreme conditions:

“My mountain rescue team is called out more than 50 times a year and saves numerous lives. One rescue that illustrates what we do was the recent rescue of two climbers from Raeburn’s gully. After a week of flying, I was called out on a Friday night in winter to save two stranded climbers. The cloud base was low and it was snowing heavily, so although the Royal Air Force rescue helicopter lifted the team as high up the hillside as they could, we had to climb for two hours through high winds and whiteout conditions before we got to the climbers.

“Once we located the climbers, we had to rig a complex system of anchors, ropes and pulleys to send down to them and then pull everyone up, as they were stuck just below the top, under a large ice cornice. Once we had recovered the two climbers and treated them, we had to walk them off the hill, as the rescue helicopter had returned to base. This took a further two hours of weary walking, and by the time we got down to the awaiting team Land Rovers, I had been awake for 24 hours. I had been on the rescue for nine hours and had already flown seven hours that day. I was able to commit to the rescue because I knew I had my nine days off starting the next day.

“The two climbers worked for a major oil company that is a Bristow client, and when they heard that I was a Bristow pilot who does this on his time off, they were quite amazed. I never thought about it before, that what we did was something unusual. I had done many incredible and interesting things in my military career before this, and being part of a mountain rescue team just seemed normal to me.

“People wonder what makes us leave our warm homes and families without question on a stormy wild winter night, when most people could not imagine setting foot outside, and why we go into the high winter hills to save strangers’ lives in risky situations. We are all hill people; we love our sport – be it mountaineering or skiing – and we just want to help people like ourselves who run out of luck or get into trouble. I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that the skills and experience I have can save someone from, at the very least, an uncomfortable night on an icy crag, at worst, death from hypothermia on a bleak cliff face.”

This article appeared in Bristow World Issue 2, 2015. View the full magazine here.