The Auchope mountain refuge hut. Photo: Northumberland NPMRT

The Auchope mountain refuge hut. Photo: Northumberland NPMRT

Rescuers said the existence of a mountain refuge hut probably saved the life of a walker on the Border Ridge.

The man was given shelter and treated by a race event’s safety team after being found in a hypothermic condition last month.

The incident was one of several involving the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team during January, which saw an increase of 130 per cent for the teams over same period in the previous year.

A spokesperson the Northumberland National Park team said part of the reason was severe weather conditions experienced in the region during the period.

“On Saturday 16 January 2016, the teams were called at 5.55am by the Border Search and Rescue Unit after a severely hypothermic walker was found on the Border Ridge in the Cheviots by participants of the Spine Race, which covers the full 268 miles of the Pennine Way, finishing in Kirk Yetholm.

“The walker had spent a considerable period of time out in the wintry hills following the event.

“The casualty was initially treated and rewarmed by the Spine Race safety team who were located at the Auchope Shelter, just below Auchope Cairn on the Border Ridge. Given the seriousness of the casualty’s condition, a Coastguard helicopter from Prestwick was scrambled. The casualty was safely evacuated by 8.40am and he is expected to make a full recovery.

“Without a doubt the emergency shelter built by the Northumberland National Park Authority with assistance from mountain rescue volunteers has once again helped to save another life.”

The spokesperson said two days earlier, the two teams mobilised their 4×4 Land Rovers and a similar vehicle from the Northumberland National Park Authority joined the operation after cars had got stuck in heavy drifting snow.

“The road linking Rothbury and the New Moor House crossroads on the A697 experienced some horrendous driving conditions for over an hour.

“The teams’ Land Rovers were tasked to check on the welfare of those stranded and to tow them to a point where they could safely make further progress. Thankfully the weather started to ease and a snow plough managed to clear the road allowing it to re-open, allowing the teams to stand down. A total of four volunteer team members were involved for 50 minutes.”

Northumbria police requested mountain rescue assistance on 31 January to use the teams’ Sarloc mobile phone tracking technology after a family became lost in woodland near Hexham. The family was found by police just a few minutes later and the teams were stood down.

The previous day the two teams were called to support police in the search for Leanne Bramwell. The spokesperson said: “While the mountain rescue incident controllers were en route to a police briefing, Leanne was found safe and well. A total of two members were involved for 40 minutes.”

The previous week, two walkers contacted Northumbria police for help after becoming disorientated in Kielder Forest.

The teams were put on standby while mountain rescue Sarloc was used. At the same time, the police sent a 4×4 vehicle, which found the walkers and drove them back to their cars. Three rescue team members were involved for 35 minutes and a further six members were ready to be deployed.

On 21 January 2016, police again requested mountain rescue assistance following reports from concerned members of the public about a distressed female near Whitburn Golf Course. The team spokesperson said: “A search of the area was undertaken. However nothing was found. The incident gave the new NNPMRT search dog Tess, her first real job, just four days after passing her assessment to become operational. The teams deployed 17 members for five hours.”

Earlier in the month, police asked for the teams’ help in locating two walkers in Thrunton Woods. The two walkers and their dogs, who had set off at 3pm, became lost after darkness set in. The walkers managed to find their way to a road at Callaly where they were met by a local police officer before being transported back to their vehicle. Four team members were involved for an hour.

The spokesperson added: “The teams would like to remind the public when severe weather conditions are forecast, to take sufficient warm clothing for the conditions and spare food and water with them whilst travelling, whether that is on foot or in their cars.

“When significant accumulations of snow and ice form on the hills of Northumberland, it can become very slippery resulting in the need for walkers to carry, and know how to use, ice axes and crampons.”

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