The volunteer Donegal Mountain Rescue Team (DMRT) has urged people taking to the hills at nighttime to contact them in advance.
They made the call after spending five hours on Muckish mountain in treacherous weather during the week responding to what turned out to be a false alarm.
The DMRT team leader advises people who are going to be out late to contact the duty phone and advise a call out coordinator where they are, how many there are in their group and the expected time of leaving the area.
“Remember – people can see lights much easier on these clear nights and we are here to investigate these sightings, but it is massively beneficial to us if we are already aware that you are out there,” a team spokesperson said.
At 17:20 on Thursday, AGS Galway tasked DMRT to the mountain after two separate reports were received regarding lights flashing on the northeast side of the mountain.
Two call out coordinators and a hasty team of five members made their way to the road leading to the ‘Miners Path’ and, with treacherous road conditions, were able to get the team’s 4X4 up to the top car park.
No vehicle was found, however, so the team conducted a search of the area and contacted one of the callers who had reported the flashing lights to confirm we were in the correct location.
Team members found fresh footprints in the snow and were able to establish that there were two sets of footprints – one set going up and the same set, being fresher, going down in the snow. This explained why the person reporting the flashing lights was unable to see a car leaving the car park. The team followed the tracks back down to the small car park at the railway crossing and were able to see where a car had come in and parked. The same footprints were spotted around where the car was parked and the tracks of the car leaving.
“With this information, we established that the people had walked up from the lower car park to the summit and were then seen coming back down with head torches on, which was why no car was seen leaving.”
The temperatures on Thursday night on the side of the mountain were -3 and the fresh snow was frozen. The team returned to base and were stood down at 22:26.
“With a break in the weather coming at the weekend, be aware that freezing conditions are forecast again for the end of next week,” the spokesperson concluded.