The Bergrettung Tirol is the mountain rescue service of the Tyrolean Mountains in Austria. In the unpredictable extremes thrown at them by Mother Nature they are often faced with some of the harshest mountain conditions in Europe. They risk their lives to save those in need – injured mountaineers, hikers and hunters.
Working in an environment with conditions as harsh as these the choice of equipment can literally be a matter of life and death. Confidence and trust in equipment – from ropes to socks – is of utmost importance, especially in challenging terrain where there is a high-risk of severe weather such as snow blizzards. Merino wool is helping protect the rescue team members whilst they protect those in need.
The team’s full-time trainer Christian Eder stresses the importance of clothing when working in sub-zero conditions.
“My clothes are really important; I need to wear high performance outdoor clothing. I’m a really big fan of Merino wool for outdoor gear; all of us at Tirol Mountain Rescue use it,” he said. “It’s important that our clothes wick sweat away, both in summer and winter. And Merino wool is excellent at doing that.
“Another big advantage of Merino wool is that in cold weather it keeps its ability to retain heat, even if it gets wet, which can be life threatening. With others, let’s say artificial outdoor clothing, you’ll freeze if it gets wet. But of course Merino wool works much better in those situations.
“Also, wool doesn’t pick up much odour, and it’s lightweight. So even if you’ve been out for several days you don’t end up smelling horribly of stale sweat. That’s the really good thing about Merino wool.”
There are about 4300 people who make up the Bergrettung Tirol mountain rescue team, and Pete Veider has been part of the family for 30 years. Starting out as a young mountain rescuer, he has all his Alpine qualifications having also worked as a ski instructor and mountain guide. Since 2004 he has been the director of the Bergrettung Tirol, organising all aspects of the group – from marketing to training courses, equipment and of course clothing.
“Up on the mountain people rely on us; and we rely on Merino wool.” Bergrettung Tirol director Peter Veider
“I make sure our clothing is as high performance as possible, the mountains are a popular tourist destination so it’s crucial to do things properly and be able to respond quickly.
“At Tyrol mountain rescue we’ve been using Merino wool for about 20 years. We use a lot of Merino wool zip-up base layers and Merino wool thermal underwear. We can’t really imagine being without it anymore. I think that every one of our 4300 mountain rescuers has at least one item of Merino wool clothing. Everyone knows what it is and why it is so good.
“It’s perfect for the mountains and for when it’s on the chilly side. It’s ideal for when I’m out on a mission and have to be able to work for a long period of time. Merino wool has all the qualities that we need a material to have. Up on the mountain people rely on us; and we rely on Merino wool.”
Whether the rescuers are climbing a cliff face, sitting on a mountain’s peak or supporting a victim by trying to keep them dry and warm, it’s important that their clothing adapts to, and functions in, every possible situation. It’s for this reason that Merino wool is worn by professionals and those in the know.
“It keeps me warm when it’s cold and it cools me when it’s hot,” Veider said. “Basically, it does everything you need it to do. It’s especially good for our work and for anyone who’s just up here a lot.
“You can’t carry a washing in your suitcase so sometimes you have to spend up to one whole week wearing a base layer. When you reach the hut in the evening, you take it off and hang it outside somewhere. That’s it. The fresh air does your laundry. I can wear the item for weeks without losing any friends; no one runs away from me. Without wool I’d start to smell so badly after two hours that no one would be able to stand the smell.”
Whether for summer or winter, Merino wool will work for your wardrobe. Here, a guide to base layers for men