12 May 2017

One year after a serious accident in the Brecon Beacons, explorer Niall McCann reflects on becoming a volunteer with the mountain rescue team who saved his life.

35-year-old Niall, who lives in Cardiff, crashed on to the north face of Pen-y-Fan last May, in an extreme sport accident. He was rescued by Brecon Mountain Rescue Team [MRT] and HM Coastguard.

Doctors who cared for him during his 38-day hospital stay thought he might never walk again, after he was left with a shattered spine.

Niall said: “I have always been a serious adventurer and expeditioner and after years of doing long and difficult expeditions I wanted to try something a bit different, something that would give me an instant adrenaline rush. I had been speed flying for about two years when I had the crash. I wasn’t very good at it!”

Niall now follows a rigorous physiotherapy regime and one year on from the accident is fit enough to volunteer alongside the mountain rescuers who saved him.

“I was three weeks in to my training with Brecon Mountain Rescue Team at the time of the accident, and have now re-joined the team to complete my training. I feel privileged to work side-by-side with the volunteers who saved my life; it is such an important charity.

“I’ve had a fair amount of medical training. I was the de-facto medic on expeditions to many hard-to-reach places, all over the world. You have to be calm under pressure when there’s no back-up coming! Now that I’ve experienced the other side of a rescue I feel like I’m better able to help others. ”

An avid explorer and adrenaline junkie, McCann was born into a family of adventurers in Canada and was brought up in Shrewsbury. After studying in Bristol and Cardiff his career has taken him all over the world, studying endangered animals and working on anti-poaching projects.

He said: “Compared to before my accident, I’m not doing great. But, compared to 11 months ago I am doing amazingly well. I still have some paralysis down the back of both of my legs, but I’m back to cycling and hiking, and am back in the gym again.”

Brecon MRT is an emergency service staffed by volunteers and funded entirely by donations. One quarter of their funding is raised by the WAAT4, an annual walking event in the Brecon Beacons. Since the event started in 2009 it has raised over £70,000 for Brecon Mountain Rescue Team.

The WAAT4 2017 will be held in Brecon on Saturday, June 17. Entry to teams is open now. For more information visit www.waat4.co.uk, follow them on Twitter: @waat4 or on Facebook, search for “Waat4 Challenge”.