BSARU teamleader Stuart Fuller-Shapcott is presented with a special Spine Race finishers' medal in appreciation of the team's efforts. Photo: BSARU

BSARU teamleader Stuart Fuller-Shapcott is presented with a special Spine Race finishers' medal in appreciation of the team's efforts. Photo: BSARU

A walker suffering from hypothermia in sub-zero temperatures was helped to safety by competitors in a gruelling long-distance race.

Runners taking part in the final stages of The Montane Spine Race came across the man on the Border Ridge in the early hours of Saturday.

Border Search and Rescue Unit members were called out about 5.50am and made their way to the site.

A team spokesperson said: “A walker on the Pennine Way had been found deeply hypothermic, wandering disorientated and very scantily clothed up near Auchope Hut.

“An experienced and highly competent mountaineer, he had succumbed after spending a week covering the 268 miles from Edale in Derbyshire, travelling very light and bivvying along the way.

“Caught out by the dramatic drop in temperature and the accumulated fatigue, he had reacted in the irrational manner that is typical of hypothermia victims, removing layers of clothing in the mistaken belief that they are overheating.

“He was discovered by competitors in the annual Spine Race, which covers the full length of the Pennine Way. These runners took him to their next checkpoint at Auchope Hut, where he was treated for several hours and rewarmed by race medics before being walked off the hill to Sourhope by BSARU members.

“While on the scene, BSARU were asked by the organisers of the race, which finishes in Kirk Yetholm, to help escort an exhausted Spanish runner to safety. In the event, this competitor was able to reach the end of his epic journey under his own steam, shepherded by a couple of rescue personnel and monitored by a medic.”

Damon Rodwell of BSARU said: “I’d been camping up in the Hownam Hills with my sons when the call went out.

“It was a bitterly cold night, and when I’d hurriedly frog-marched the kids to safety and jumped in the car to make my way to the callout, the car thermometer read -10C. That was at valley level, so up on the Border Ridge it must have been a good three to five degrees colder, with a stiff breeze adding to the chilling effect.

“The Spine Race has been running for five years now, and the organisers put a huge emphasis on the safety of the participants. The infrastructure they have put in place, including GPS tracking of all runners and checkpoints up on the hill staffed by professional medics means that when emergencies arise, as they inevitably do when athletes take on such a huge challenge in the middle of winter, they are quickly spotted and dealt with.

“In this instance they came to the rescue of a walker who was not part of their event. That, combined with the quick response of the ten BSARU members who attended from as far afield as Berwick and East Lothian resulted in a very happy outcome.

“We are fully supportive of people who wish to hone their skills and fitness in our winter hills, and would remind anyone venturing out at this time of year to go prepared for the quick onset of darkness and extreme weather, to ensure they have navigational skills and equipment – not just GPS, but also a map and compass and the ability to use them – and always to leave a route plan with someone who can raise the alarm should they fail to arrive home when expected.”

Border Search and Rescue Unit was called out earlier in the week to search for a missing man.

The team spokesperson said: “Routine training on the evening of Thursday 14 January was cancelled and the members who had been on their way to Gordon Community Woodlands were diverted to Jedburgh to mount a search for a vulnerable missing man in his 50s who had last been seen the previous afternoon, and who was believed to have spent a freezing night outdoors.

“With a previous history of repeated disappearances and another sub-zero night on the cards, police were placing a high priority on finding him. BSARU members divided into four groups and searched local woodlands, sections of Deer Street and other locations where the subject was known to have slept rough before.

“The searchers failed to locate the missing man, but when he was found staggering through the town, shivering uncontrollably and with a frozen nose-bleed, it was thought that perhaps searchers had flushed him out from his refuge in a local wood.”

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