Women in Mountain Rescue: Carina Humberstone
Womenclimb recognises the importance that Mountain Rescue volunteers play in ensuring that climbers and hillwalkers are educated and safe when enjoying the outdoors. Womenclimb want to encourage more interested women to see Mountain Rescue as something they can get involved in.
Today we catch up with Carina Humberstone, from Buxton MRT to chat how she got involved in Mountain Rescue and teaching water rescue skills.
Carina is currently a member of Buxton Mountain Rescue Team, but prior to that spent 10 years in the Edale team.
What made you join Mountain Rescue?
I wanted to be in the RNLI but Buxton is a long way from the sea! I like the challenge of going up against the elements, venturing out in the worst of the weather and being able to not only look after myself, but to help others too. I also like learning new skills and pushing myself to take on exciting roles in some quite scary situations.
I am a Module 2 ‘Water First Responder' Instructor for the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation, (PDMRO is the regional MRT body for the Peak area). I was also responsible for developing and running a training programme for the PDMRO Module3 ‘Swiftwater Rescue Technicians'.
I have also led navigation training programmes for new recruits and mentored new recruits.
How do you manage to fit the commitments to the team around your work and family life?
I enjoy Mountain Rescue and so it is quite a big part of my life and I make sure that I make time for it. Work is purely to make money so that I can spend my time enjoying the outdoors, so I make sure that I don't work too much! Fortunately my husband is also in Mountain Rescue, (it is where we met).
What’s the time commitments to being involved in your team?
Buxton MRT trains weekly with additional training & exercises. Module 2 instructors agreed to run 3 training weekends each year in the first 2 years, 2 thereafter. When I was running Module 3 sessions I would run 6 sessions a year.
I would like to attend more call-outs but work does get in the way and I attend as many as I can. Also, being an outdoor enthusiast I am often out enjoying myself when the call comes. BMRT had nearly 100 call-outs last year.
What does being a Level 2 trainer for water rescue involve and why did you get involved?
Being a Module2 Instructor involves teaching Mountain Rescue personnel the skills needed to be able to work competently and safely alongside water margins and in water, as long as they do not become buoyant! I also take them into swiftwater to teach them what to do if they were to end up in the water and how to rescue others should they fall in.
I got involved in instructing the Module2's because I was already organising and instructing sessions for the PDMROs Module3's. It seemed a logical step to become an official Module2 instructor when the opportunity arose through MREW. I already had a lot of experience swimming in whitewater due to my (lack of) skills in kayaking!
What’s the best thing about being a member of mountain rescue?
I think there are 2 great things about being in MR. The first is getting a call-out and being outdoors in some simply stunning settings when you wouldn't have otherwise planned to have been out. For example seeing the sun rise on a misty morning, following a search through the rain, during the night.
The second is the excitement. It might be navigating across the bleak plateau of Kinder Scout, on a foggy night; knowing that someone is relying on you reaching them, to reassure them and then bring them safely off the hill. Or it could be dangling on a rope over a cliff edge, being lowered to an injured climber. It might also be diving headlong into the bubbling water below a waterfall in order to swim across a fast flowing river.
What has been the most difficult thing for you during the time that you’ve been a in Mountain Rescue and how do you deal with such situations?
Dealing with death. We occasionally come across people that we cannot save and this is always difficult. I deal with these situations by thinking that most of these people have died very quickly, doing something that they really enjoy, often in beautiful surroundings. It is very sad that they went earlier than planned, but they didn't suffer and passed very swiftly.
Were you already knowledgeable before you joined?
Yes. I was a Mountain Leader, climbing instructor and was already working as an outdoor education instructor and teacher when I joined. I had also taken the infamous Mountain First Aid course by Ewan Jones, every 3 years, for 12 years.
Being a woman in an organisation that is predominantly run by men means that you have to be really confident, competent and push yourself forward to take on roles within MR. Women are often overlooked.
If someone would like to give it a try but they aren’t sure they have enough experience or knowledge, what would you say?
Get in touch with your local MR team, they will tell you what the basic requirements are. A lot of training happens within MR teams so there are plenty of opportunities to learn and refresh skills. The most important experience required is being able to navigate and look after yourself in the hills, in different conditions.