Massive emergency effort saved scouts

Things went wrong at a major gathering of speidere (scouts) in Northern Norway this week. Nearly 60 of them had to be rescued by helicopter during the night after they ran into problems on a strenuous mountain hike, and four were sent to hospital.

Around 9,000 scouts from more than 30 countries have gathered outside Bodø in Nordland County for an annual summer camp. Around 2,000 of them set off Monday evening on a hike under what was supposed to be the area’s Midnight Sun, but the weather didn’t cooperate. “It was very demanding, with rain, fog and temperatures around 3-4C,” the captain of one Sea King rescue helicopter, Remi Olsen, told Avisa Nordland.

‘Demanding conditions’
He said it was “important to say that there were demanding conditions, and it was great to see how the scouts set priorities, helped each other and really took good care of each other.” Of the four who were flown to hospital in Bodø, one was released while three others were suffering from an injured ankle, hypothermia and exhaustion.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that 115 of the older scouts, aged 16 to 26, had opted for the two toughest routes in an area around the peaks known as Børvasstindene. “Some of them perhaps over-estimated their own abilities, or weren’t well-prepared,” camp chief Peer-Johan Øedgaard admitted to NRK. “But as an organization I maintain that we have had good control over the situation.”

It ended up setting off a series of rescue operations that culminated in a decision to call in a Bell helicopter from the Norwegian defense operation at Bardufoss, farther to the north. Red Cross and other emergency services wanted to be sure they had enough capacity to rescue everyone who needed to get off the mountain.

Frode Iversen, operations leader for the central rescue service for Northern Norway, said the problems were caused by “several unfortunate circumstances.” The weather was grey and chilly and over the course of the night several began to suffer hypothermia and exhaustion and opted to call for help.” Everyone who wanted to bail out of the hike ended up being offered it. NRK reported that 55 scouts were airlifted out by helicopter while three others hiked down to another spot where they could be picked up. The other 60 chose to continue the hike.

‘Always prepared’
Ødegaard insisted that “it’s a fantastic hike in good weather, but it was too tough with the weather we had.” He said the toughest hiking trails are now being dropped from the scouts’ program.

“I think they all learned a lot, that’s what we do in scouting, ‘learning by doing,'” the scout leader added. “Some of them who aren’t locals were perhaps a bit surprised by Northern Norwegian summer weather.”

He stressed that “of the 2,000 scouts who went off hiking, 1,950 had a very fine trek.” Iversen also claimed that that “scouts are ‘always prepared,’ and don’t head for the mountains unprepared. They were just unfortunate.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund