Off Road Driving Course

In the early hours of this morning, (well 9:30, on a Saturday!), call out team members Chris Greenhalgh, Steve Fletcher, Mike Higginbottom and Paul Brain met at our Ladybridge Hall Base to receive a safety briefing with Ray Cooper from Northampton-based Pro-Trax Off Road Adventures.

In conjunction with the team receiving the ’Hummer’ from General Motors, the team also had the opportunity to do an off-road training course.

Following the safety and technical briefing, the group made its way to Darwen in the ’Hummer’ (BM5) and one of Protrax own Landrovers, arriving at a course also used by the fire service in their own off road training sessions.

Directly on arrival, the track descended a steepish, muddy slope before both vehicles came to a stop to allow all participants, including Ray, the trainer, to have a look at the course. Ironically the first task was to walk around the course to see if there are any potential hazards on the course which could cause damage to the people, the environment or the vehicles (in that order).

A quick poll took place to see if the non-drivers wanted to stay in the ’Hummer’ on its rounds. All decided it’d probably be safer to stay outside the vehicle, where there would be the opportunity to take photos, eat lunch, laugh and move out of the way if anything went wrong!

Paul was the first to try out the course, and he probably had the hardest job, creating tracks all other drivers could follow! In fact, after making a hash of one particular incline all other members completed the course in reverse, so they had it easier anyway!

After all members had completed the course, Ray decided to take the vehicles into a different area of the field, where the tracks were a little less defined.

After once again walking the course, where Ray turned down one particular escape slope, much to the bemusement of the novices, Steve was pushed forwards to try out the course first.

All was going really well, Chris even took the risk of sitting in the rear of the vehicle during the descent, then Steve traversed the plateau at the bottom of the incline. Or at least tried to traverse the plateau at the bottom of the incline…

At one particular rise Steve managed to dig the ’Hummer’ in to a couple of ruts, and in a effort to escape, following instructions from Ray, nearly slid the ’Hummer’ in to the nearby stream.

Ray to the rescue…

Off he trundled to pick up his Landrover, with its winch, which could be used to rescue the stricken ’Hummer’. And with good team work, Paul keeping high revs in the Landrover, Mike opperating the winch, Steve steering the ’Hummer’ and Chris, erm, taking photographs the Hummer was safely retrieved from its precarious position.

“Great” all thought. “Now we just have to drive out the way we came and Bobs your Aunty we’ll be back on terra firma.” Then it was found the vehicles were unable to ascend the slope previously descended. To make matters worse, two vehicles were now stuck at the bottom…

Out came the winch again, together with a plethora of strops and rope allowing the team to attach the winch to a tree in the direction of escape near the top of the slope. Ray, taking total control of this one extracated his Landrover from the bottom of the slope.

Once one vehicle was at the top of the slope, this vehicle could use its winch to extract the second vehicle. Chris took control this time, mutterings were continually heard during his drive up the steep slope.”Its not one of my vehicles” (Chris is also the team vehicles officer).

Ray proceeded to apologise for the lost time in having to extract the two vehicles. All agreed doing the rescue could come in handy in the future if past experience is anything to go by, so it added to the experience of the day more than anything.

The remainder of the day was spent back in the familiar tracks of the field, each team member now getting the hang of how the vehicle would respond during each obstacle on the course.

Shortly after completing the course the ’Hummer’ plus occupants travelled to incident 116/2008 in Bury.

Bolton Mountain Rescue Team would like to thank Ray and all at Pro-Trax Off Road Adventures for providing this valuable off-road driver training on the penultimate day the Mountain Rescue ’Hummer’ is with the team.