Sir Chris Bonington: 'there's an industry for rescuing people'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Sir Chris Bonington: 'there's an industry for rescuing people'. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountaineering elder statesman Sir Chris Bonington has ruffled a few feathers after he was quoted in a national newspaper saying mountain rescue has almost become a ‘sport’ and an ‘industry’.

Interviewed by the Daily Telegraph’s arts correspondent Hannah Furness, the Everest summiteer said rivalry between teams trying to reach the same victim has become heated.

One team that was recently called out when 76 walkers went missing in the Lake District said the comments were disappointing.

Cumbrian resident Sir Chris was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. He told Ms Furness: “As far as this business of people relying on being rescued, and we see this in Britain a bit and you see it in the Alps.

“But in actual fact, there’s quite an industry actually for rescuing people. In Britain what is amazing is the mountain rescue teams are totally voluntary so they’re volunteers and they love doing it.

“Mountain rescue has almost become a sport in itself.”

He added: “I believe there has even been cases where there’s been a mountain rescue team from one valley and a mountain rescue team from another valley racing to get the person first. They’ve never quite got to fisticuffs but it’s got quite heated.”

Sir Chris said people should be encouraged to get out of the city and into the outdoors.

A spokesperson for Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team in Cumbria said on Facebook: “It’s both a little disappointing and frustrating when senior figures in UK mountaineering report in the press that they are ‘not worried about unprepared climbers needing to be rescued’.

“While the team actively encourages people to use the fells and mountains of the UK, we do our best not to criticise even when our patience is tested.

“We would like to encourage those venturing into the wilder parts of the UK to do so in a sensible and prepared manner.

“Patterdale and other rescue teams will always be there to help should you need us but we are at the end of the day volunteers. We all have day jobs, families and lives to lead outside of mountain rescue.

“We all love being part of the team but ever increasing demands on our time through fundraising, rescues and training does take its toll. This week alone I expect some members of the team will have spent well over 20 hours of their time on team business.

“Perhaps almost as much time in fact as those trying to publicise their new book or movie?”

Last month the Patterdale team turned out to a rescue to find a walking group’s leader enjoying a meal and a glass of wine in the pub while 76 of his party were unaccounted for on the fells.

A week later the Wasdale team was called out after a man was unable to make his way off the slopes of Scafell because he was incapacitated by cannabis and alcohol.

And this week Aberdyfi Search and Rescue Team pleaded with hillwalkers to realise they were responsible for their own safety after a couple were rescued when they got lost on Cadair Idris, without the necessary clothing, equipment or navigation skills.

grough contacted Mountain Rescue England and Wales for a comment but had not received a reply at the time of posting.

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