Emily Woodhouse has been in Mountain Rescue for 2 years. She is most likely to be found on a bike, in a tent or pacing around in the dark looking for contour features. Recently, she cycled from Cambridge to Plymouth via Switzerland on a tandem without connecting to WiFi once. Emily's next challenge is launching a UK based print magazine, featuring women in adventure and outdoors, for January 2018.
This is Emily's entry for the Wild Writing Competition:
It was 3 o’clock in the morning by the time we found him. The cynically minded would say it’s a waste of time looking for someone in the dark who doesn’t want to be found. Darkness is easy to hide in. Run circles round the search lights and you’ll never be found. After several hours of startling sheep, I was ready to believe it.
We reached an outcrop. Standing at the bottom, I cast my light once over the rocks and something caught my eye.
“Oh,” I thought, “that looks like a bag. That’s odd”
I stepped into the reeds, to investigate. But my torch light caught a crack in the granite behind and, suddenly, the bag didn’t matter. Between the ebony of the rock and the black of the shadow was a sharp grey corner. It was a shoulder.
We train every week. We practise these exact situations. But I’d never actually been the one to find the casualty. Never. Almost two years in Mountain Rescue and it had never been me. Surprised doesn’t really cover it.
I passed my torchlight across the shoulder again, just to be sure, then down the arm of the grey waterproof. Still not quite believing, I moved round the rocks. I saw a face.
“Nick!” I called, along the search line, “Nick! There’s a person in the tor.”
“You’ve found someone?”
“Yes. I think he might be sleeping. He didn’t move when I shone my light on him.”
In hindsight, this sounds unbelievably naive. We were looking for someone who was trying to take his own life. It never once crossed my mind that he could be dead. Nick gave me the incredulous look I deserved and got straight on the radio.
Four hours ago, I’d been lying in bed when the call came. It was almost midnight. I had to go to work in the morning. I’d just started a new job and I was exhausted. I rolled over, blearily declined the message and rolled back into my duvet.
When I took the first-aider to the casualty, we approached from below. He was wedged deep into the crack, but even in the dark one colour was obvious: red.
After turning down the call, I couldn’t sleep. In fact, I spent the next five minutes very much awake. You’re in the rescue team for heaven’s sake. If people can’t count on you to respond then what’s the point? Who cares if you’ve got work in the morning? I reached for my phone and responded again: Available. 30. Re-evaluated priorities.
I was tasked as the runner between the casualty site and the team, passing snippets of detail across the bog. He had tried really hard: several entire packets of pills, lacerated wrists and an entire bottle of whisky. But he was still alive.
It’s easy to turn down opportunities in life. But you never know how important that thing you turned down will be... or who it will be most important to.