Mountain rescuers risk becoming an unpaid guide service, according to a team in the Lake District.
Scafell Pike, the right-hand peak, with its neighbour Scafell
Emergency teams say too many fellwalkers are unable to find their way on the mountains, and simply ring 999 when they are lost. The warning came from the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) after they were called to help another participant in the Three Peaks Challenge, stranded high on the Lake District fells.
Richard Longman, of the rescue team which covers England’s highest mountain, said it was the fourth time in five days its members had been called to help lost walkers. The latest followed a call at 5.50 this morning from a walker attempting to summit Scafell Pike but who had managed to make his way on to the wrong mountain.
He had set off from Wasdale Head at 1am but had taken a wrong turning on to Lord’s Rake, on neighbouring Scafell. Lord’s Rake itself is a rescue blackspot, with a large, unstable chock stone and the constant hazard of loose, falling rock.
The man was found by two members of the Wasdale team after giving an accurate description of his position. He was unable to find a way off the fell without their help.
Charity challengers on the Three Peaks route, during which walkers attempt to summit Ben Nevis in Lochaber, Scafell Pike in the Lake District and Snowdon in north Wales, have caused the Wasdale MRT many problems this year.
In the 12 months up to November, the team had responded to more than 100 calls and taken to the fells 73 times. Mr Longman said: “The team is becoming increasingly concerned about the inability of fellwalkers to navigate when they lose the path and their reliance on mountain rescue teams to provide a guiding service.”
He points out that Wasdale is not the only team affected. Last month, a spokesman for the nearby Langdale-Ambleside MRT said after a rescue: “This is the third incident recently and the N-th of many where the victims went up a mountain without any realistic possibility of getting back down without assistance.
“This is entirely preventable with sensible and simple preparation.”
The Langdale team had simple advice: “Don’t be too ambitious; set off early enough to complete the route before dark; take a torch, learn to navigate and, to quote Gordon Ramsay: ‘get some balls’.
“There aren't many hills in the Lakes that don’t have a simple valley route down that, in turn, won’t lead you to a road, village or town. It might not be where you parked your car, but that’s a minor inconvenience compared to the inconvenience of 18 team members giving up three hours of their lives to sort you out!
“This may seem harsh, but the problem is getting worse, and will almost certainly continue to do so.”
Today’s rescue on Scafell involved five members of Wasdale MRT and lasted five hours. All civilian mountain rescue teams in Great Britain are unpaid volunteers.