Early on a bright morning in May 2019, Martin Rhodes, 46, of Halifax, was spotted walking near Kinlochewe.
When he did not return to his hotel after a sudden change in the weather that brought heavy snowfall, he was reported missing that evening.
Extensive searches over the following week by specialist police officers, mountain rescue volunteers, RAF teams, the Search Rescue Dogs Association, and an HM Coast Guard helicopter found no trace of Rhodes. Calls for residents to check out the hangars or anywhere someone might have happened were organized by the Halifax Labor Party, of which Rhodes was a member, to raise money for the Mountain Rescue Team by Dundonell (DMRT). Around Â£ 500 was raised.
From the start, Police Scotland asked the DMRT to search for Rhodes. The team attends around 40 rescues a year and luckily, according to team leader Donald Macrae, âin many cases missing people are found. In Martin’s case, it’s different.
When Rhodes did not return to his accommodation, Macrae asked four mountain rescue teams – around 60 people, four search dogs and two helicopters – to search for Rhodes. The search area in the remote North West Highlands was immense, equivalent to 2,500 football fields in a wild mountainous region with no houses or roads. The mountains they
exceeded 1000 meters and snow still fell on the high peaks.
Searches took place every day for a week before the DRMT switched to weekend searches for a few months.
When winter arrived the search must have ended but in 2020 rescuers searched for Rhodes again. There was still no luck. Last month 12 volunteers returned.
They had to camp because it takes a day’s hike to get to the places where Rhodes’ body could be found.
According to Macrae, the research will continue.
âPeople and families matter to us,â he said. “They are always on our minds and therefore, for the foreseeable future, we will be devoting time to research each year.”
DMRT, which has approximately 50 members, is a charity run by volunteers who should be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Employers allow staff to leave work to attend rescues. Macrae himself is deputy director. The other members include independent engineers and carpenters.
Team members can often miss birthdays or important events. âRescues can take many hours in a person’s life,â Macrae said. âWe also attend training sessions once or twice a month. We have a strong team ethic and by training together we know how each of us works, so we take care of each other. Staying safe is essential to our success.
Brown and Rhodes’ mother, Kathleen, raved about the DMRT and other organizations who tried to track him down. âThe Scottish Police and the Halifax Police relayed important information when Martin was lost and both were very sympathetic and understanding,â Brown said.
âDMRT is wonderful still trying to find Martin. They are heroic volunteers who risk their lives trying to save others. “
âI miss Martin a lot and often wonder what happened,â said Kathleen.
âHe still had a lot of life in him, especially walking in the Scottish mountains, which he adored. After being unemployed, he found a job and his life was much better. It’s very sad what happened.
âIf the DMRT, to whom, along with all the other organizations involved, I would like to pay tribute, can find Martin, that will end some of the grief for myself, other family members and his many friends. “
At the vigil, Brown sang Rambling Boy by Tom Paxton.
âI never forgot it. Keep rambling, Martin, âa tearful Brown said.
The DRMT relies heavily on donations for its Â£ 40,000 annual costs. The Scottish Police provide an annual grant of Â£ 13,000, but the rest must be collected. He is currently fundraising for a new team base.