Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Flight helicopters (and their Royal Navy peers) have been long been a welcome sight in the UK mountains.
In March 2015, UK search and rescue will be the responsibility of a new civilian SAR unit and the military Sea King helicopters will eventually be decommissioned. It was nice therefore to spend what may be my last time watching a skilled RAF helicopter crew in action during a winter hiking / mountaineering photo shoot in the Cairngorms National Park.
We first heard the helicopter (call-sign RAF 137) as we descended a large snow and ice slope into Corrie Domhain. The aircraft flew periodically between us and a pair of winter climbers on the Shelterstone crag opposite. Not long after, the crew dropped the winchman off next to us and we had a chat. They'd spotted a rucksack in a large amount of avalanche debris nearby to where we stood and wanted to check it out. It turned out to be the property of some other climbers who had left it there whilst they climbed on Hell's Lum Crag.
A Scottish charity, Morayvia, is campaigning to have a Sea King helicopter kept in Scotland as a historical and educational resource. Visit their website to find out more information about the Morayvia campaign and a link to their E-Gov petition.