IT’S been a busy start to the year for the Clapham-based Cave Rescue organisation, including attending three callouts in less than half a day.

CRO spokesman Jonty Rhodes speaks about the service and the varied rescues the group carries out.

“So far we have attended seven cave related incidents since January 1 which is usually our approximate annual total of cave rescues.

“Saturday February 29 turned out to be a very busy day for the team with us attending three cave rescues in less than ten hours of each other.

“Our first callout was to assist a caver who had fallen down a pitch in Aquamole Pot in Kingsdale and was complaining of leg, pelvic and lumbar injuries.

“A hasty party of CRO team members entered the cave and provided initial casualty care and began devising a suitable extraction plan. Further team members followed with additional rescue equipment and began rigging the cave in order to begin hauling the casualty out.

“The casualty was treated for his injuries and ‘packaged’ into a stretcher and the extraction was commenced by the underground team. Meanwhile, team members on the surface had set up a tripod over the cave entrance and had provided further rigging to enable the casualty to be hauled up the final sections of the cave from the surface.

“Due to the nature of the casualty’s injuries, we requested assistance from Yorkshire Air Ambulance, and in a display of superb flying in very difficult weather conditions, Helimed 98 landed shortly before the casualty was finally brought to the surface.

“In rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, the casualty was quickly assessed by the YAA medics before being transferred into the aircraft and then conveyed to Leeds General Infirmary for further treatment. As soon as Helimed 98 had left the scene, CRO team members wasted no time in de-rigging and getting off the fell as the weather was growing rapidly worse with very strong winds and a combination of hail and snow.

“The second callout was thankfully brief and didn’t involve any team member having to go underground. A large party of mainly novice cavers who had been exploring Alum Pot, Selside, had not made contact with other members of their group by a pre-arranged callout time. Their friends (very rightly so) contacted CRO and team members were put on standby. Fortunately after a quick investigation by a local CRO team member, the missing cavers turned up slightly later than planned but safe and sound. CRO team members were stood down and went back to enjoying their Saturday evening.

“Unbelievably, we received a third callout at approximately 10pm to assist a caver who had become stuck whilst ascending a rope on the final pitch of Rowten Pot, Kingsdale.

“Whilst attempting to pass a rebelay (an anchor point used to permit a change in direction of a rope) the caver became stuck fast and was unable to either ascend or descend the rope.

“This resulted in him being suspended at the rebelay for several hours with his two companions below him effectively stuck behind the bottle neck. Fortunately members of the same caving club who had been exploring different caves in the area became concerned that their club mates had not surfaced and went to investigate. On discovering the situation, they requested assistance and were also able to pass a knife down to the stuck caver who was then able to cut the cows tail (safety lanyard) that was the cause of the problem and then managed to descend the rope to the relative comfort of a rock ledge. The casualty and his companions were eventually brought to the surface.

CRO team members then re-rigged the rescue equipment and headed back to the depot to replenish our vehicle with fresh equipment before making their ways home for a well-deserved rest.

“I’d like to congratulate the team for an outstanding performance on Saturday, it was a very busy day in some very difficult conditions, everyone involved definitely did pull out all of the stops.”