Mountain rescuers say it’s time to educate fellwalkers after a series of call-outs to people who have got lost.
Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) has logged 62 incidents which involved taking to the fells this year, many of which did not involve injury or accident. In the corresponding period in 2006, there were only 50 call-outs. In addition, a further 23 emergency calls were taken which did not result in mobilising the team.
Wasdale from Great Gable
The most recent was from a couple who declared themselves lost on the summit of Great Gable, despite being at the summit cairn with its memorial plaque. They were unhappy about being guided by phone, so a rescue team was mobilised, despite there being no risk to the walkers and conditions being good.
The couple subsequently phoned the rescue team when it was half way up the mountain to say they had managed to find their way off and were on their way to safety. The day before, the team responded to a call was from a 68-year-old man lost on Scafell Pike.
Team leader Julian Carradice told grough: “We’ll deal with all the calls, but we are finding a marked increase from people who are simply lost and have phone reception and turn to that.
“In the old days, they took a map and compass. We see a lot of people who just set off from the car and who just use a few pages from a guide book.”
Mr Carradice points out that all the team members are volunteers with jobs and acting as a ‘free guide service’ is not a good use of their time.
Participants in charity Three Peaks Challenges are a particular problem for Wasdale MRT, which covers Scafell Pike, one of the mountains tackled. Scafell Pike’s summit is a mass of fragmented rock and paths are not easy to see. At night and in mist, visibility is just a few metres and good navigation is called for. Nine of the team’s call-outs during the summer period were to Three Peaks Challengers
Mr Carradice said: “There is an increasing number of people taking to the fells without mountain knowledge. You are going in an environment where help won’t come quickly. Have a first aid kit rather than a mobile phone; have the right emergency equipment.
“The trick is to always be checking on the map and knowing where you are, then you don’t get lost.”
Wasdale MRT chairman Richard Warren said: “We believe this figure [the number of calls to the team] could be reduced with greater awareness, preparation, fitness and experience. Accidents can happen to anyone regardless of experience but there are more incidents now, particularly people getting lost, which are down to poor preparation, a lack of understanding of the basic skills of map work and navigation, over-ambition and low general fell awareness.
“Is it time for a national campaign to raise awareness?”
The rescue team has spent more than 1,000 man-hours on the fells in the last six weeks. The 40-person Wasdale team of unpaid volunteers costs between £20,000 and £30,000 a year to run and is one of 12 Lakeland teams which between them handle 400 incidents annually.