Date of Incident

03/03/2020

Country

Wales

Route

Incident

A day walk of some 6 miles circumnavigating and ascending the top of Mynydd Machen. I am a member of 35 years with Gwent Mountaineering Club (GMC)and the BMC and have led GMC members on many mountaineering trips throughout the British Isles.
Since retirement from working life some 12 years ago, I have been out walking regularly on a Tuesday with other retired friends and members of the GMC. I walk over 1,000 miles per year on average. On this occasion I was navigating the walk and was generally familiar with the area, having done numerous routes in the past. It was a fine day but cold with a slight wind. We were descending the mountain with about 1 mile to return to our car.
The route was using mainly public right of ways. The incident occurred as we approached a metal kissing gate style which was preceded by a small wooden bridge over a stream. We had just crossed a field which was exceptionally wet and muddy as well as been cut up by grazing horses.
Unfortunately, I had stopped a little distance before the style to check the route while the other two walkers carried on. The first person approaching the small bridge and style slipped so badly that he crashed onto the edge of the bridge and landed partly on his rucsac which contained a flask. I say unfortunately because, as generally in the lead, I tend to test the surface of wooden bridges and styles as they tend to be slippery with wet and algae at this time of year. However, the person was initially winded and was obviously in great pain. He had fallen into the stream and quagmire and was unable to move through pain. With great discomfort, we managed to get him to crawl about 3 yards onto drier land. This took some 15 minutes to achieve before I was able to call 999 on my mobile phone.
Dealing with the emergency services took some 15/20 minutes to establish our location via OS grid references and general description. At the time I was not aware of the app "what three words" (I have since learnt this and now have it on my smart phone) and this caused some initial confusion! Also, at the time we had no idea of the extent of the casualty's injuries, just that he was in acute pain and unable to move because of it.
It took the police about an hour to locate us and another two and half hours for the ambulances (3 of) and the emergency response vehicle to arrive - the latter based at Bridgend! Indeed, if it were not for the help of a farmer attending his horses in the field who provided details of access to emergency services via a farm track, the situation would have been much more delayed and serious.
The casualty was then seen to by the medical staff who administered morphine intravenously to stabilise the injured person. He then had to be stood up and carried about 100 yards across the muddy and slippery field to the awaiting ambulance. By now it was three and half hours and getting quite cold with the sun having gone behind the mountain ridge. As always we are well equipped with warm and waterproof clothing. A space blanket was used for some protection of the casualty.
We later learnt that the casualty suffered 8 broken ribs and a punctured lung. Two of the ribs were broken more than once. He was placed in an HDU at hospital and is currently awaiting surgery to apply metal plates to his ribs to enable better breathing capability.
Ironically, I had chosen the area to walk as it is relatively well drained, despite the wettest February on record, and has a fair amount of dryish tracks. This particular part of the walk was by far the worst.

Lessons

If it can happen, it will happen. Always be prepared! I would now recommend the app 'What three words'. Never underestimate the extent of the casualty's injuries. If they are in severe pain, there is likely to be reason for it. With hindsight, should the Mountain Rescue be called (the nearest base was some 20 miles away)? Difficult to know as at the time I was dependent on my 999 call and their assessment overall. When the Emergency Services were at the scene they did a great job....

Activity

Winter walking

When

Descending

Injury

Serious injury requiring medical treatment

Causes

Slip, trip or fall

Anonymous?

No

Reported By

Participant

Wearing Helmets?

Rescue Services Involved?

As above report ie police, ambulance and emergency response vehicle

For more advice and guidance on good practices visit BMC skills

All reports are self-submitted and have not been edited by the BMC in any way, so please keep an open mind regarding the lessons and causes of each incident or near-miss.