Helicopter in the hills

The Moors For The Future project are back on the job again, spreading cut heather on Bleaklow as part of the attempt to re-vegetate the eroded peat. I helped out with loading the lift bags last year, and this year I'm getting to help with the second part of the process, airlifting the bags onto the moor. My first stint was this Wednesday - we drove up the track to Glossop Low where we were airlifted by the helicopter onto the moor:

Helicopter Helicopter

As we were walking to the drop area, a couple of guys and a dog came up to us, the dog was a rescue dog wearing a distinctive NSARDA coat, so we guessed there was a Mountain Rescue callout in progress. It turns out that someone had been missing since the previous day, and a total of six MR teams were looking for him. They asked if they could use the helicopter to help search for him, so as a result we had to mooch around for a couple of hours while they looked for him, without any success unfortunately.

Once the helicopter returned we split into two teams of three, and each team took a set of GPS coordinates where the bags were to be dropped. The helicopter can lift six bags at a go and drop them in pairs, so each team member stands where the pilot needs to drop a pair of bags. Helicopters can only hover into wind (and it was very windy and cold!), so the person who is most downwind holds their arms up to signal the helicopter for the first pair, and he works his way upwind dropping bags as he goes. It's quite disconcerting to have to stand there as half a dozen large bags come swinging towards you - the pilot comes in fast and low and drops the bags within six feet of you, sometimes closer - and he's only a short way above your head, looking at you through a window in the floor of the helicopter and a couple of tatty wing mirrors attached to the outside of the chopper:

Helicopter Helicopter Helicopter

After he's dropped one set of bags, he flies back to the staging point on Glossop Low and picks up another six, and delivers them to the other three man team. Whilst he's doing that, the first team gathers up the lifting strops and parcels them up into a rope bag so they can be taken back down to the staging point the next time around:


And finally, here's the result of our handywork - all the white blobs are lift bags full of heather waiting to be spread. Whilst we were waiting for the helicopter we spread some of the heather brash - it needs to be spread about 1cm thick over the bare peat, and it's surprisingly hard work - the easiest way, bearing in mind the strong wind, was to toss armfuls into the air and let the wind do the spreading.


We had to pack in about 3:00pm because the RAF declared a no-fly zone over Bleaklow so that they could get one of their Sea King search and rescue helicopters in to look for the missing guy - unfortunately he's still missing, and the search has been called off until Saturday, which doesn't bode well for the individual concerned :-(