As summer approaches more and more people will head for the great outdoors to take in the stunning scenery of the North York Moors.
But while most go equipped with maps and compasses, many rely on their smart phones to navigate their way across the rugged landscape.
Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team have received a growing number of call-outs to walkers who have lost their way after relying on GPS technology.
In an attempt to prevent further incidents, the group is warning outdoor enthusiasts to ensure they carry the appropriate navigational tools.
Incident controller Ian Hugill, 55, from Scarborough, said: “In the summer months more people are keen to get out. When you go out on a hill you should take a map and compass with you. Increasingly people are using GPS and navigational tools that come with mobile phones but bitter experience says that when most need the tools the battery is flat or they have dropped the phone in a stream.
“So the strong message we want to give is have a map and compass and know how to use them and even in summer make sure you have got a torch. It’s amazing how quickly it does get dark and having a map and compass but no torch does make navigation quite a challenge.”
Failing GPS technology makes up just a portion of the call-outs attended by the team’s dedicated volunteers each year.
So far this year, the rescuers have attended 21 incidents, including a recent shout in Scarborough where members recovered a dead body from steep ground at Oliver’s Mount.
Mr Hugill said: “We usually end up working with three-types of people; outdoor enthusiasts becoming lost or injured, vulnerable people, such as children and Alzheimers sufferers, and despondants – people who are going out intending to self harm.”
With a patch to cover of around 2,100 square miles, the team remains on standby 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year.
“Our coverage area runs from Sandsend in the north to Helmsley then across to the A19. The western boundary then runs south to the M62, at which point it heads east as far as Goole, where it follows the River Humber to the coast. The eastern boundary follows the coast north back to Sandsend. This encompasses the south eastern half of the North York Moors National Park, Dalby Forest and the Yorkshire Wolds. It is the fourth largest area covered by a rescue team in England and Wales,” said Mr Hugill.
Based in Snainton, the team is made up of 41 operational members and 33 associate members, who help with fundraising and other activities. At least 16 volunteers usually attend an incident and the group then appoints two incident controllers, two drivers and three hill teams of four, which are made up of a party leader, a navigator, casualty care and a radio operator.
Callouts usually come from one of two sources – via a 999 call to the police from a member of the public, or direct from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. The group also works closely with Scarborough Coastguard and other rescue teams including the neighbouring Cleveland Mountain Rescue Team.
One of the biggest incidents the team has been called to in recent years was the search for Helmsley woman Barbara Colling, in January this year.
Tragically, her body was discovered on Hawnby Moor more than two weeks later following an intensive search.
Mr Hugill said: “It was a major search that pulled in teams from across North Yorkshire, including Cleveland, Swaledale and RAF Leeming. Some 2,000 man hours were expended across eight days and there were a total of 82 volunteers on the ground. We were out searching in all weather conditions.
“Inevitably dealing with fatalities is upsetting but one thing that brings satisfaction is it brings closure to a family. We have medical professionals on the team who can provide us with counselling but we have had plenty of experience as a team of pulling together in these circumstances.”
Team members come from all walks of life and the group is always on the hunt for new recruits.
Mr Hugill said: “If you join the team you can expect it to take 12 months to become an operational member. We train two evenings a week and at least one day over a weekend per month. We would expect whoever joined to be able to have navigational skills and be equipped to be safe on the hill.”
A dedicated member for 12 years, Mr Hugill said being on the team was extremely rewarding. “The best part is the team spirit and the team working together towards a common goal. While we do a serious job, there is also a lot of humour and banter when it’s appropriate,” he said.
“The other thing is going out on to the North York Moors. We are very lucky to spend a lot of time up there training or on operations.
“I would encourage people to come along to one of our open evenings and see what it’s all about.”
The four-wheeled members of the rescue team
Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team owns a number of vehicles for large emergencies.
It has two Land Rovers, which transport search parties onto hills quickly and are often used as ambulances. The group also has a four-wheel drive which acts as a control unit and carries equipment.
It recently purchased a fundraising van, which will help to raise awareness of the team.
• The Scarborough and District Team was formed on July 9, 1965 with about 12 members. It got its baptism on October 26 that year when six youngsters from Teesside went missing on Fylingdales Moor while taking part in the Lyke Wake Walk.
• In 2006 the group changed its name to Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team to more accurately reflect its operational area and role within search and rescue in the UK.
• The team has a number of long-serving volunteers including some of who have been members for more than 20 years.
• It usually attends 30-40 call-outs a year.
• The team is funded entirely through donations. It costs around £30,000 a year to keep the group running. It was recently awarded a three-year sponsorship deal from Pickering-based Wayside Holiday Park.
• Last year 20 members were awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal and the team also received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
• The team is active on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.