Hi-tech system aids Merrick rescue

Two hillwalkers had to be brought to safety from the Merrick last night (Thursday) by the Galloway Mountain Rescue Team.

Members of GMRT were called out at about 7.30pm to respond to a report of two experienced walkers who had become disorientated while descending off the Merrick in poor weather conditions.

Using the SARLOC system to locate their smartphone via its GPS co-ordinates, the GMRT team was quickly able to find the climbers safe and well.

The 30-year-old man and 27-year-old woman, visitors to the area, are both keen hillwalkers. The weather conditions on the hill deteriorated early in the evening, causing them to become disorientated and take the wrong route off the Merrick, the highest peak in Galloway.

The team deployed a team of three in the Land Rover from Newton Stewart, while the rest of the team were put on standby.

Team Leader Mike McCann, who was involved in the rescue, said: “We used the SARLOC system to locate the walkers. This works by sending an encoded SMS message to their smartphone which, when acknowledged, sends us the GPS co-ordinates recorded in the phone giving their exact location.

“We were then able to respond rapidly and, since there are forest roads in the area, gain access to the near vicinity at a location east of the well known Culsharg Bothy.

“Once we were close to them we illuminated all our search lights and blue flashing lights to guide them to the vehicle. They were traced safe and well, but cold, at 8.47pm.

“This is an example of how even experienced, well-equipped walkers, can become disorientated in poor weather, particularly when darkness falls. They reacted appropriately, contacted the police asking for mountain rescue, and by the good fortune of them being in possession of a GPS-enabled smartphone, modern systems ensured a swifty and efficient rescue.”

For more information about the voluntary activities of Galloway MRT, including details of incidents, training, walk routes and more, visit www.gallowaymrt.org.uk.