Ill-equipped charity walkers have caused more headaches for rescuers this weekend.
Unseasonably severe weather caught out Three Peaks Challengers tackling Scafell Pike in the Lake District with 20 members of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team out on England’s highest fell for more than six hours helping walkers in distress.
The road in Wasdale, choked by parked vehicles of challenge participants
Picture by Wasdale MRT
Their rescue efforts were hampered by the numerous cars and minibuses clogging the country lane in Wasdale, making it difficult to get rescue vehicles into position.
The charity challenge, in which participants summit Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours, has been blamed in the past for landing mountain rescue teams (MRTs) with a financial burden they can ill afford, while raising cash for other charities. All Britain’s civilian MRTs are staffed by volunteers and rely on donations and contributions to carry out their work.
This period is the busiest time of the year for the Three Peaks Challenge with daylight hours at their longest and the weather usually kinder.
Wasdale MRT was alerted just before midnight on Saturday to a walker in his twenties who had collapsed near the summit of Scafell Pike. One of the party had become separated from the other two while trying to summon help on his mobile phone. Despite having a GPS receiver with him, he could only tell the rescue team his altitude.
Rescuers searched the area around where the walkers said they were, but it was only after nearly four hours and a widened search that the collapsed man was found on the Eskdale side of the fell. Rescuers warmed the man up in a bivvy shelter and fed him after which he was escorted off the mountain. His colleague was also found after a further search and walked down to Eskdale.
During the search for the collapsed man, a further four walkers were found sheltering in the mountain-rescue stretcher box on Mickledore. Earlier in the day, two walkers, part of a large challenge group, had been reported missing after separating from the rest of their party. They turned up at Boot in Eskdale before rescuers were mobilised.
Wasdale MRT chairman Richard Warren said: “We were out on the mountain again last night: heavy rainfall and low cloud and many hundreds of walkers, most of whom were poorly equipped for the unseasonably severe weather conditions.
“There were around 200 to 300 walkers in groups ranging from two or three up to 20 or more were passed as we descended the mountain at six o’clock this morning in heavy rain.
“The access roads were also severely congested with parked cars and minibuses blocking the road.”
Wasdale’s mountain team has had 50 per cent more call-outs so far this year compared with 2006.