ALTHOUGH Bolton is not known as the most mountainous place in the world, Bolton Mountain Rescue spend 365 days a year looking after a 800 sq km area in the North West.

Despite the huge area they cover and the importance of the role, they rely entirely on volunteers, with running costs of £40,000 and around 45 operational call out members currently on their books.

They are currently searching for 12 new recruits to give up their time to help save lives and after whittling the field down from around 60 applicants, 20 shortlisted people gathered at the North West Ambulance Service headquarters, in Chorley New Road last Saturday, with the aim of eventually becoming a fully fledged Mountain Rescue volunteer.

Towards the end of last week, a yellow weather warning for wind was issued but this did not seem to deter the applicants, who seemed fully prepared to brave the wet and windy weather to pass the initial assessments.

After a brief presentation explaining what level of commitment is expected from Mountain Rescue volunteers, the group was split into two teams of ten.

One team would stay at the base, completed a paper exercise, while the other half would get more hands on and hike up Winter Hill.

The two teams would then change over at lunch time.

Talking about the aim of the day and describing what was expected of the potential recruits, Assistant Team Leader Steve James said: “We’re not after super fit people but we need to make sure there’s an acceptable level of fitness.

“It’s just about putting people through their paces and making sure the basics are there.

“We give them an hour to see if they can get to the trig point, near the mast at the top.

“The other half of it is filling in forms because we want to see what their history is like.”

When the first group set off from a car park close the Ward’s Reservoir around 10.30am, there was quite a bit of mist shrouding the tops of the hills, hiding landmarks such as the mast and Rivington Pike.

Despite this, the misty conditions eventually seemed to subside and everybody made it to the trig point in around half an hour, with plenty of time to spare.

Upon the potential new recruits reaching the summit, they were greeted by a couple of current trainees, as well as full-time volunteers.

They were then given their next task to navigate to nine checkpoints on the hill, using skills such as map reading, bearings and grid references.

After completing the task and making it back down Winter Hill, the potential recruits were taken back to base to complete paper-based exercises and give the other ten people a chance to show what they were made of.

While conditions on Saturday were by no means perfect, Storm Freya really hit its stride on Sunday, giving the recruits an even more gruelling challenge.

They had to complete activities such as lowering stretchers, CPR and a search exercise in the blustering wind and pouring rain.

Following the conclusion of the weekend, Steve James said: “We now have the unenviable task of selecting the 12 best for placement into the 12 month long trainee programme.

“It’s fantastic that so many people volunteer to give us a choice at the end of the day, and I am really grateful to all those who expressed an interest in joining.

“Our next recruitment drive will start in January 2020, but we are always on the look out for support group volunteers.”

For more information about Bolton Mountain Rescue, visit