The Maam Turk walk is an annual walk across a mountain ridge in Connemara run by the NUI Galway Mountaineering Club for the past 34 years. For the past 17 years members of the Galway Radio Experimenters Club have provided a communication service through out the 25km walk at 12 locations. A control station, 3 finish points and 8 mountain top locations keep a constant tally on all the walkers times and last locations. This year was off to a busy start, the walk started at 5am on April 11th and by 5:45 we had our first call. A lady had an accident 1.5km into the first stage and was unable to walk, one of her colleagues managed, with poor coverage, to contact the control station and we proceeded to alert mountain rescue.
Through the use of radio, an advanced rescue crew were given the location and were quickly on the scene to administer first aid. It was now 7am and the main mountain rescue crew were beginning their climb, the decision to call in an air rescue was also made but it would be four hours later before this was possible due to the low cloud on the mountain. In the mean time Galway Mountain Rescue stretchered the lady down almost 400m to a plateau to facilitate the air lift. Thankfully this was the last time Mountain Rescue had to be called upon that day as all 203 walkers were accounted for.
Fast, reliable communications are vital in aiding the tracking of walkers, and in ensuring the safety of the checkpoint crews. As some of you well know, this being the 10th anniversary of the death of Mike Crosby EI3GP who lost his life on the event.
How it works.
Each walker is issued a numbered card on registration; this card is punched and recorded at each of the checkpoints, and one of the three official finish points. The details are radioed to the control station throughout the day where a master sheet is compiled. As the day progresses checkpoints can be closed as walkers are accounted for and this allows crews to return to ground in daylight, as darkness falls, this becomes critical as the last mountain has a long and dangerous descent.
The detailed information gathered has helped in the past to quickly eliminate people from a search list, and has often helped trace walkers who hadn’t checked in with one of the finish points before going home. Analysing peoples times can often show the ones that get lost in the thick cloud or may have lost their way.
Report by Enda Broderick, EI2II