The walker is winched into the Coastguard helicopter from the gully. Photo: Patterdale MRT

The walker is winched into the Coastguard helicopter from the gully. Photo: Patterdale MRT

A mountain rescue team leader used a mobile phone app to help save a walker’s life after he fell 60ft down a Lake District mountain.

The young walker was described as ‘a lucky lad’ after he tumbled down a gully, stopping just short of a drop over crags.

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team issued advice for those heading for the hills following the dramatic operation on Dove Crag, which involved the team and two helicopters.

The rescue proved modern technology can be both a boon and a bane for teams alerted to help members of the public on the fells.

The Patterdale team, which responded to five rescues in less than 24 hours at the end of the weekend, was alerted to the man’s plight on Monday morning.

Mike Rippon of the team said: “At around 9am we received an emergency call from Cumbria police reporting that a young walker had fallen and suffered a head injury on Hart Crag.

“The team leader kept contacting the man and made an effort to attempt to identify where he had fallen so that the assembling team could go to his aid.”

Team leader Mike Blakey said: “Luckily this young man had a good mobile data signal. Usually, this would mean that we could send a text message which would allow us to locate him on our mapping systems. Unfortunately this didn’t work due to incorrect settings on the man’s mobile phone.

“While team members arrived at the rescue base and then began ascending the mountain, I continued to attempt to work out the man’s location by speaking to him on the phone. It became apparent that he had no idea where he was as he had spent the night on the mountain having failed to locate the Priest’s Hole cave where he had planned to stay the evening before.”

There have been several rescues of people who have got into difficulties looking for the cave since it featured in BBC One’s Secret Britain series, including the fatal fall of Kevin Ryan, who tumbled 500ft to his death near the cave, while with a group planning to spend the night in the cave.

Mr Blakey said: “[The young walker] had set off in the forecast heavy rain and cloud and having spent the night in thick cloud he began to descend the wrong way in the morning and the fell into the top of a steep gully well above the cave.

“The man had given the name of a nearby hill, Hart Crag, in his first 999 call but this didn’t stack up with the description of the area he was describing on the phone. As the young man was unable to provide an accurate location, I asked him to allow me to use Find my Friends on the Apple iPhone.

“This allowed me to see his location on a satellite image on my iPad and we were then able to work out a grid reference to send the team and two helicopters which were en route. As I was at my desk it was then over to the team members on the ground to continue the rescue and for me to reassure the young man that help was on the way. He was clearly very scared and upset.

“However, during the rescue the young man choose to put the unfolding incident on Facebook. Not only did this waste the small amount of battery life he had left, and that we needed to keep in contact with him, but his friends then started to make additional 999 calls to the police. This was unhelpful and a distraction for all concerned during what was a complex rescue.

“In fact, his mobile phone battery died a few minutes later and we therefore lost contact with him. This was probably avoidable in this situation as he was high up and had a good signal.”

Mr Rippon, deputy team leader, added: “Once we had the accurate location from our team leader we sent team members to man’s location with the aid of a Coastguard rescue helicopter from Prestwick in Scotland and the Great North Air Ambulance.

“Once we’d located the man and assessed his injuries the Coastguard helicopter was able to winch the man out of the gully and away to hospital. He was released later in the day having only suffered bruising.

“It appears that the man tumbled down the gully for 60ft, stopping short of falling on and over the front of the crags. He was one heck of a lucky lad.”

The rescue was among five during a busy 24 hours for the team.

The first was on Sunday afternoon when a woman from the Stockport area who suffered a knee injury on Place Fell. She was treated at the scene and stretched to the valley bottom. A team spokesperson said: “The woman and her partner had quite rightly planned a walk so that they would get off the mountain before the forecast heavy rain and cloud arrived from the North, but the injury slowed them down and unfortunately the first rescue was undertaken as the weather front passed through.

The pair got stuck at the 'awkward step' on Striding Edge. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The pair got stuck at the 'awkward step' on Striding Edge. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“As we were placing the woman into one of our four Land Rover ambulances the team was alerted by the police to two young walkers who had become stuck on a narrow ledge on a difficult section of Striding Edge on Helvellyn.

“This rescue was finally completed late on Sunday evening and team members returned home wet and tired in the dark.”

The following day, as team members were making their way off Dove Crag after the man was winched into the helicopter, another callout came in.

Mr Rippon said: “As the team were descending back to the valley a second emergency incident came through from the police, this time a crashed glider on the Old Coach Road. The pilot had sustained a broken wrist on landing.

“Team members and the Great North Air Ambulance attended this incident.

“A little while later another call, this time for a man in his 70s who was suffering from chest pain near to Pooley Bridge. Team members went to his aid and he was safely transferred to an ambulance. By 3pm the rescues were over and so was the working day for most.

Team leader Mike Blakey added: “All mountain rescue teams are entirely voluntary and team members have day jobs.

“When rescues run one after another like this it can place a burden on the team, their families and their work. Sometimes incidents are completely avoidable if the weather forecast is considered properly before venturing out.

“The use of technology in the mountains can be a real aid to those who need help and the team’s whose job it is to rescue them. I would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone of a few basic guidelines for those venturing into the mountains this summer.

  • Check the weather forecast and plan your route according to your experience. Remember that the weather is often much more serious on the fell and once you’re in the cloud it’s easy to be become disorientated unless you know how to navigate safely
  • If you call a rescue team and they don’t get back to you within 15 minutes, dial 999 again and ask to be patched back to the rescue team. Sometimes the police and rescue teams are unable to call you back as your call may have initially come through as roaming 999 call. They will often want more information about what’s happened and where you are
  • If you have contacted the emergency services you must save your battery life on your phone for essential calls between the rescue team and yourself. Do not use your phone for anything else and do not phone other people. You need to keep the line free for the rescue team. I cannot stress enough that this may save your life.

“Enjoy the rest of the busy school holidays and be safe.”

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