There have been reports in the past 36 hours of some Irish Scouts being among 55 rescued from a hiking activity as part of the Norwegian International Jamboree – Nord 2017. We caught up with the Venture Scouts involved, as well as the Group Leader who was called into action to help rescue a local Scout there.
It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting with Venture Scouts from 2nd Galway, Mícheál Quinn-Walsh (16) and Derva O’Reilly (15), and their Scouters, Catherine “Cat” Roseblade and Kieran Roseblade. They are a part of a Tuam delegation of 7 Ventures, 2 Rovers and 2 Scouters taking part in Nord 2017, a jamboree of 9,000 Scouts in Bodø, northern Norway. It’s so far north here that the sun will not go down until mid September.
We’re sitting together because I’ve heard there’s a story to tell about their experience of the Hike programme here at the Jamboree. Kieran was allocated a place on the staff team, where he would be manning a check-point on one of the Scout routes, while Derva and Mícháel chose one of the Rover routes. The theme of the jamboree is “Completely Wild” so the toughest hike route had this name. The two Ventures chose the less adventurous 18km “Almost Completely Wild” Route, to be completed over a period of 24-hours. They were part of a team with nine Venturers/Rovers from The U.S., and a Norwegian Rover. Mícheál had a bit of experience of this type of challenge, having completed a Gaisce expedition.
Their route was a planned 18km, starting at point A at about noon on Monday and told to meet at point B on Tuesday, with the trail marked on the two maps they were given. “It was raining from the start,” Derva tells me, “so that put a bit of a dampener on the mood.” “Spirits were still good though,” she says.
Early on in the hike they encountered a patrol who had gotten into difficulty when one of them had an asthma attack. They offered to take the unaffected scouts with them to the next checkpoint, as some medics dealt with the casualty.
9 hours into their hike, one of the Americans, Bryce, hurt his ankle. “Two of the group are trained medics,” Mícháel says, “so they treated the injury.” Not long after the group continued, but it became apparent that Bryce could not continue at the original pace. The Irish Ventures suggested that all should go at the rate of the slowest member, (in this case Bryce), but this suggestion was not taken by the group. Eventually the group split with 3 staying behind, and the rest continuing to the summit.
MEANWHILE ON ANOTHER MOUNTAIN
Kieran had checked-in four of the five patrols he was expecting to see reach his checkpoint. At about 6pm the Assistant Patrol Leader of the last group (from Oslo) ran up to Kieran to inform him that her Patrol Leader had fallen and was in need of first aid. They both returned to the scene of the accident, where the casualty (whose name Kieran couldn’t really pronounce) was lying in an unnatural position. He secured her head and, given the potential risk of spinal injury, he asked the APL to call the emergency services. The rescue helicopter was dispatched. A few phone-calls later, and Kieran spoke directly with the patrol’s leader to update him on their situation. They agreed that the rest of the patrol could be sent to meet up with the leader, at a point a few kilometres away.
When the rescue helicopter arrived about 2 hours after the initial call, Kieran and the Patrol leader were lifted out. In the helicopter were already four Rovers, and they picked another before heading to the airport. At the airport, the Patrol Leader was transferred to an ambulance,. “At first I also got into the ambulance,” Kieran says, “but I was asked to remain with the Rovers before they were transferred back to the Jamboree”. “This unfortunately meant that the PL didn’t have anyone she knew with her until her leader arrived at the hospital,” he added.
MEANWHILE BACK IN THE MOUNTAINS
The Rovers and Venturers followed the trail as marked on the map, and there were spray painted signs on some of the rocks along the trail as well. The visibility deteriorated due to the mist and strong winds. The group sheltered behind a rock at the summit as they discussed their next steps.
The descent on the other side was difficult, down a very steep rock face. “Some of the stones were loose, and when one was dislodged, it would cause others to fall too,” Derva says.
Eventually they reached a plateau and walked across it, hoping to reach the designated campsite. “Then we saw the helicopter on the mountain above us,” Mícháel says, “so we called the ones we had left behind, and they told us they were being rescued.”
Soon after, the group was met by a mountaineer who brought them some food and energy drinks. He had been part of a group of Scouters who had rigged ropes for abseiling at the end of the hike, but had now split up to help evacuate Scouts due to the deteriorating weather. “The bread he gave me was nicest piece of bread ever!”, Derva proclaims.
“He showed us the location of some cabins that we could stay in,” Mícheál explains, “and we had a Norwegian guide to bring us there.” By 11pm, they reached the cabins and found that some others had already arrived there. “It was really fun in there!”, Derva added.
The occupants planned to wake the next morning at about 8am
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE CAMPSITE
When Cat noticed Kieran back at the campsite at a much earlier time than expected, she was initially confused. “I told her I’d need a coffee, and then I’d explain everything, ” he says. Not long afterwards, the Jamboree HQ sent an SMS to all adults with an update on all of the hikers, but without specific details on the identities, or nationalities of those involved.
Cat decided to call the Ventures’ parents to keep them in the loop. “Mícháel’s dad sent us a message to say that the Jamboree had posted information on facebook,” Cat says. When she went looking for further details she was initially told that all would be evacuated and brought to the site, but it was at 4m that they heard their Ventures would be staying in the cabins.
THE NEXT MORNING
The occupants of the cabin were woken at about 8 by some leaders who explained the new plan. They would walk for another 6 or 7 hours where they would be picked up by buses. “Everyone was feeling much better on the second day,” Derva admits “the weather was better and we had a guide, so we all felt pretty good.”
SAFE AND WELL
The Tuam group was reunited late Tuesday afternoon. Everyone was in good spirits. “We all had burgers from Jumbo Burger!” Cat says. Since then versions of the story (based on the initial statement from Nord) have been published by outlets internationally, including RTÉ.ie and it made the front page of the Tuam Herald.
Derva’s plans for the rest of the Jamboree include finger painting, and not doing anything to crazy, so sailing has been ruled out. She is proud to hold a copy of the camp newspaper signed by the rescuer they met on the plateau. Mícheál had been part of the construction team that helped to build the Jamboree for the two preceding weeks, and will be part of the de-construction team too.
There are no plans, yet, for a book-deal.
Our man in the Field – Norway