August 2020

    Meet the DWMRT volunteers

    Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team is a volunteer rescue service, available 24 hours per day, every day. Mountain rescue began with an ethos of “mountaineers helping other mountaineers in difficulty”. That ethos still drives the team, but their role has expanded. 

    The team is comprised of 60 highly trained and motivated volunteer mountain rescuers who come from all walks of life, including paramedics, business consultants and IT managers. What unites them is a common love of the outdoors and a dedication to putting others first.

    DWMRT specialises in helping people who are lost or injured in the hills but is also regularly involved in searching for missing persons. It also aids the public in severe weather conditions.

    To perform these duties safely, each member is trained in areas such as low-visibility navigation, search skills, search management, communications, pre-hospital emergency medicine, helicopter operations, crag and rope rescue, and swiftwater rescue.

    We recently announced a five-year partnership with the Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team as its exclusive Apparel Supplier, and will be utilising its more than 140 years of heritage, experience and expertise to develop and deliver professional grade gear to help the team stay and feel alive whilst completing their epic work.

    We spoke to two DWMRT volunteers to find out more about their roles and how they got involved with the team:


    John Kavanagh was introduced to DWMRT through his experience in cave rescue in Ireland. Before joining DWMRT, John had approximately 15 years’ experience in cave rescue. In that time and through this work, John become acquainted with fellow DWMRT members, and joined the team six years ago.


    DWMRT volunteer, John Kavanagh

    As rescuers, we must have trust in our teammates, trust in our equipment and techniques, and trust in ourselves. John Kavanagh, DWMRT Volunteer

    Why did you want to be a part of DWMRT?

    I’ve been involved in outdoor activities for most of my life, and I believe that volunteering to help others is an important part of living a contented life. Volunteering with DWMRT allows me to help people and be outdoors at the same time.

    Your job is very extreme. Do you worry about safety?

    I’m very conscious of my own safety and the safety of those around me, but I wouldn’t say I worry about it. Mountain rescue, like all activities, brings with it an element of risk. As rescue team members, we are trained and actively encouraged to minimise risks that arise in a training or operational environment.

    Trust is a trait that is earned – how does this resonate in your DWMRT work?

    Trust is extremely important. As rescuers, we must have trust in our teammates, trust in our equipment and techniques, and trust in ourselves. We develop trust in our teammates by working alongside each other. The only way to trust equipment is to use it, and trust in techniques follows closely. We have a duty to be honest about our own abilities and to have the confidence to admit if we’re not the best person for a particular task.

    What are the top three things that enable you to do your job to the best of your ability?

    Trustworthy equipment, effective training, and fitness are, I believe, the three most important things for people to perform well. We need to know that our equipment will do the job that’s asked of it. Our training is what gives us confidence in our use of that equipment, we need effective training to develop and maintain our skill levels. Finally, if we’re not physically and mentally fit, we won’t perform to the best of our ability.


    DWMRT volunteers training with search dogs


    How do you train to be a part of a team like DWMRT? What is involved?

    Training starts when a person joins the team. There is a structured training programme in place that teaches new members the basic skills required of a mountain rescuer. Those skills include stretcher packaging and management, search skills, basic rope skills, water awareness, and communications. In addition, all new members must pass an external mountain skills assessment, and they must have a relevant first aid certificate before completing new member training.

    Once qualified as a rescue team member, there is regular training involving all team members, as well as more specialised training. Individuals will often gravitate towards a speciality that interests them, for example, medical, rope rescue, search management, swiftwater rescue, or even training a search dog.

    Alongside all of that, as individual team members, we are responsible for keeping ourselves fit enough to take part in the team’s operations. It can be quite a commitment, but it is rewarding!


    Fiona had taken part in a number of DWMRT fundraising events over the years so was aware of the good work they completed before she got involved, and as a result, she applied to the DWMRT’s probationary programme in 2017. Fiona has now been involved with DWMRT for three years and enjoys being in the hillwalking and mountaineering community. Fiona wanted to be a part of the DWMRT due to exposure to situations she ordinarily wouldn’t, and the experience she gains.


    DWMRT volunteer, Fiona Kelly

    It’s really exciting to be part of the process to bring a uniform to the team, that's designed for us and our requirements.  Fiona Kelly, DWMRT Volunteer

    We know you’re working with Helly Hansen on the development of the new DWMRT uniform – what will this involve?

    It’ll involve selecting key items of kit to test out on training sessions and call outs.  We’ll be able to give feedback on what changes need to be made to garments to make them work for DWMRT.  It’s really exciting to be part of the process to bring a uniform to the team that’s designed for us and our requirements.  It’s something we’ve had as a goal for a long, long time.

    What do you like most about the Odin and Verglas collection of outdoor jackets?

    I love how light the Odin pieces of kit are and its flexibility, something that many hardshells are not! I found the Verglas jacket surprisingly warm for its weight and it really worked well when layered up – a really versatile jacket.

    What is your favourite piece of Helly Hansen kit that you’ve tested/ so far and why?

    I loved trying out the Odin pants. The fit and stretch of the fabric were perfect and something I find very hard to come by.

    Trust is a trait that is earned – how does this resonate in your DWMRT work? 

    It’s central to every one of our training sessions; we need to all be comfortable with each other’s abilities so that when we find ourselves in those challenging situations, we know we can rely on, and trust each other.

    What are the top three things that enable you to do your job to the best of your ability?

    Being prepared: I always have my bag and kit packed and ready in the boot of the car so I can leave immediately for a callout. Being trained: I make every effort to attend as many of the team training sessions so that I refresh my skills but also keep up to date with any new techniques being rolled out.  Being fit: I’ve recently taken up running again but I also try to get out on the hills twice a week with a short mid-week hike in the evening and a longer, more challenging weekend hike with some other team members. We try and make sure to bivvy or camp out at least once a month too which I find really helps to clear the cobwebs and reset especially after a stressful week at work!



    If you want to find out more about the DWMRT and the amazing work they do, please visit:

    Photos by Derek O’Rourke

    Location Powerscourt Waterfall