The UK’s first-ever dedicated mountain rescue team has reflected on a 'difficult' year, marking its 75th anniversary by giving us a unique insight into the difficulties of the entirely voluntary, and always heroic, and often unsung service that members provide.

In this first account, Janice Hamilton, in her first year as Team Leader of Coniston Mountain Rescue Team, told us of some of the heartbreaking lows that the team of over 30 unpaid volunteers has suffered this year.

She said: "On May 22 and 23, we had two consecutive dog fatalities.

"I couldn’t believe it when on the Monday, a Team Member rang to tell me about the second accident involving a dog.

"I love dogs, and my life is centred around my own, so having to deal with another fatality was heartbreaking.

"It was a Rottweiler too, which is my favourite breed, having had two in the past.

"The difference between a dog rescue and a human one is that the dog doesn’t know someone is coming to help, so the stress is even greater for the animal.

"We have rescued many dogs (and sheep) but these were the first dog fatalities I had experienced, and to have them back to back was emotionally draining for me personally.

"However, on a 'high' note, both owners have now welcomed puppies into their lives, which will help fill the void.”

Janice told us of one particularly tough day in the summer.

She said: "On July 10, we had four incidents, although it turned out two were related.

"A young man (teenager) slipped whilst descending Dow Crag via a gully, with his cousin, thinking he was taking a shortcut off the fell.

"He was too young to die!

"His family were also out on the fells so the shock of the incident, losing a child, was overwhelming.

"I felt their grief and pain and it was very consuming.

"I supported them in the following weeks, but there was, and still is, much support for his family from other sources.

"It will be a very difficult time for them over the Christmas period.

A tragic incident close to Christmas also sticks in Janice's mind.

She said: "On December 14, we attended an incident on Dow Crag where a gentleman suffered a cardiac arrest.

"He couldn’t have passed away on a more beautiful day, the fells were covered in snow and the sun was out so there was even a warmth to be felt, but I just kept thinking of how devastated his family was going to be, especially just before Christmas.”

Janice explained that the position she now has within the team happened almost by accident:

“When I joined in 2008, I offered to make tea for casualties, their friends and family, and Team members on their return to Base after a call out," she said.

"I hadn’t anything to offer as I wasn’t a climber or medic, I just enjoyed walking with my dog.

"When I got a phone call asking if I’d like to come to the Base and see how it was run as there was an incident, I went straight there from a walk.

"Because I had my boots on, the Team Leader asked if I'd like to go on the fell.

"I jumped at the chance and never looked back.

"Never got to be official Tea Lady but I do my very best to look after the Team.” 

While the majesty of the Lake District fells will always attract visitors young and old, experienced or not, Janice stressed the importance of being prepared.

She said: "There is a large focus within the Lake District on encouraging walkers to think about their activity prior to setting off from home/or their accommodation.

Adventure Smart is a program that has lots of information and advice on how to enjoy your activity and stay safe. It can be visited via