Out of range but not out of touch – Alan’s rescue

Out of range but not out of touch – Alan’s rescue

One slip on a remote snowy mountain left Alan unable to move with a broken leg, very alone and facing a night shivering in a survival bag. With no one around and no mobile phone signal, how did he raise the alarm?
Man sits at the summit of Creag Mhor with a stunning view

It had been the perfect April day for experienced walker Alan. But one slip changed all that in seconds, leaving him with a broken leg and very alone in a remote, snowy location with darkness fast approaching. He needed help, fast. 

Adding to an already serious situation was the lack of mobile phone signal and no people or roads within sight. Alan is a planner and although he was out of range, he was not out of touch. He was carrying a key piece of equipment that’s similar to a personal locator beacon (PLB), it meant he could immediately alert the emergency services.  

PLBs are widely available and they are satellite-synced so they will work from anywhere in the world – on land or sea. They transmit the alert and your location directly to government SAR (Search and Rescue) entities via the COSPAS-SARSAT network. Alan’s own commercially-available device operates in a similar way using commercial satellites.    

When Alan fell and heard a sickening crack in his leg, he knew walking the remaining seven kilometres was impossible. He was on a mountain in the Scottish Highlands, a few miles east of Ben Nevis.  

Tracker activated and rescuers were on the way

He activated his tracker just after 4pm and in under ten minutes, Alan knew that a rescue plan was under way. Police Scotland had been informed and the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was alerted. But because of his injury and difficulty accessing the remote location, HM Coastguard was asked to help and the search and rescue helicopter from Inverness went to his aid. He was airlifted to Inverness where he was met by the local Coastguard Rescue Team and transferred into the care of the Scottish Ambulance Service and onwards to hospital.  

Investment in an alerting system is worth its weight in gold

Following two operations on his leg, Alan is now recovering at home and very thankful that he had planned for the best but also prepared for the worst. 

He said: 

“I love the outdoors and remote locations but when you’re away from civilisation with no mobile phone signal, it’s potentially more dangerous. You never know when bad luck is going to strike. That day it was my turn.

“I always take safety kit seriously and my investment in an alerting system saved lots of extra worry and being able to get a direct text to my wife to tell her I was safe was an enormous help in a difficult situation. It also meant I spent a night in hospital rather than shivering in a survival bag on a mountain! It’s worth its weight in gold,” he added. 

PLB-type devices will work where mobile phones don't

Fiona Hastie, Coastal Operations Area Commander for the North of Scotland area said: “Alan was really well prepared but he’s the living proof that accidents can happen anywhere and at any time and we’re pleased that he’s now recovering well.   

“If you’re in difficulties, being able to call the emergency services and let them know where you are, can be a matter of life or death. Around our coasts, there are significant pockets where there’s no mobile signal, so an emergency PLB-type device is definitely worth considering.” 

HM Coastguard operates all civilian search and rescue helicopters in the UK. Our helicopters are regularly called out to incidents on the water and along the coast, as well as helping with inland rescues where a helicopter is needed, such as mountain rescues.  

What we do | HM Coastguard UK 


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Alan is an experienced walker, he's at the summit of An Colleachan

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