The next two weekends instil dread in the mountain rescue teams of the Lake District.
Wasdale MRT in action
The short nights and extended daylight as the summer solstice approaches mean one thing to the volunteer rescuers of Wasdale, Langdale-Ambleside and Keswick: extra business. The two upcoming weekends bring a multitude of charity walkers attempting the Three Peaks Challenge – and many of them have little if any mountain knowledge.
The Three Peaks Challenge involves summiting the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, usually within 24 hours. This means the majority of challengers arrive in Wasdale in the early hours of the morning and tackle Scafell Pike in the dark.
Unsurprisingly, many come to grief, either by poor navigation or injury, and the mountain rescue teams have to respond. This year, the Lake District National Park Authority is urging those charity challengers to dip a little deeper into their pockets and contribute to the rescue teams’ funds. A spokesman for the authority said: “Every year millions of pounds are raised for charities by people who take part in the Three Peaks Challenge, but very little of that money ever finds its way towards the mountains rescue teams, who themselves rely totally on donations for their funding.
“In the next few weeks, when there is the maximum amount of daylight for these strenuous mountain challenges, the paths up and down Scafell Pike will be packed both day and night with charity walkers.
“Some of these will undoubtedly get into trouble and call on the services of Wasdale, Keswick and Langdale mountain rescue teams, as well as the Lakes search dogs and handlers teams (SARDA).”
Last year it cost £500,000 to fund the 12 Lake District mountain rescue teams and together they carried out 425 rescues, helping 557 walkers and climbers who had got into difficulties.
LDNPA chief executive Richard Leafe said he was delighted that so many thousands of walkers wanted to come to enjoy the Lake District while raising vital funds for such worthwhile charities at the same time.
“But sometimes charity has to begin at home, and I would encourage as many people as possible to think about raising some funds for the people who, no matter how difficult conditions may be, will come to their rescue as soon as the alarm is raised.
“Small donations from many thousands of walkers can, and will, make a huge difference.”
Richard Warren, chairman of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, said the 450 volunteer professionals covering the Lake District are dedicated to going to the aid of anyone who gets into trouble on Cumbria’s fells and the surrounding lowland and coastal areas. Existing fund raisers, who are team members themselves, were keen to carry on organising special events to continue financing the rescue service.
“However the harsh facts of life are that money is always tight and we do need fresh sources of funding,” he said.
“Unlike the police, fire and ambulance services, we do not receive any public money to fund the mountain rescue service. We are totally dependent on voluntary donations. I am sure that when this is explained to people taking part in mountain challenges, like the Three Peaks, many of them will want to make some kind of contribution to our service.
“More importantly we also need walkers to accept greater personal responsibility for their safety and their environmental impact, both in the preparation for the event, and then during the challenge itself. Having the correct clothing, equipment and experience will reduce the increasing workload they put on the rescue teams,” he added.
The mountain rescue movement celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.