Cash and Lilah safe back on Helvellyn's summit. Photo: Scott Pilling

Cash and Lilah safe back on Helvellyn's summit. Photo: Scott Pilling

Climbers have rescued two dogs that were stuck for two day in a precarious position high on England’s third tallest mountain in freezing conditions.

Scott Pilling set off from his home in Horwich near Bolton on Tuesday to try to find the pair on Helvellyn in the Lake District.

German shepherd Lilah and mongrel terrier Cash were reported missing on the 950m (3,117ft) summit of the mountain on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Pilling said he intended to try to find the two animals and attempt some winter climbing on the steep eastern side of Helvellyn overlooking Red Tarn.

“I set off with a 20m rope, ice-axes and crampons,” he said.

“I managed to find the dogs by chance with the fog lifting just in time as I was on bullet-hard ice on the Swirral Edge exit and telling a guy with no ice-axe and crampons to go down and he was slipping everywhere.

“I managed to spot the dogs on the east-facing slope under a huge corniced ridge to my left in the distance.”

He said he had very poor phone reception, but managed to upload a picture of the dogs to Facebook.

“[Lake District felltop assessor] Graham Uney spotted my picture. I then managed to get through to mountain rescue but didn’t have great connection mid-call and went off.

“So I climbed the exit on Swirral and then looked at the cornice and dogs from another angle. Both were looking, mobile and responded to me.

“I was on my own and with a possible unstable cornice, didn’t want to risk us all falling down.

“Mountain rescue? We didn’t know what was going on, so I rallied people who had likely plenty of mountaineering experience to assist me in rescuing the dogs. I had a 20m rope just in case I found them in the valleys but wasn’t expecting to do a rescue mission with the rope from underneath a cornice.

“We devised a plan on testing the cornice further away from the dogs and it was pretty stable.
So we took it in turns belaying and going over the edge to save the dogs.

The two dogs were below an unstable cornice on the mountain. Photo: Scott Pilling

The two dogs were below an unstable cornice on the mountain. Photo: Scott Pilling

“The bigger dog was shielding the smaller dog from the elements and when we got the smaller one first – it was weak – we could see why. It had icicles all over its fur and the bigger German shepherd was protecting it – amazing to see.

“Finally I got hold of the smaller male dog and threw it up the snow ramp we created with our ice-axes. The dog was cold but a little bit of loving and rubbing helped him come back to like bouncing everywhere. Then we went to get the other.

“Lilah the German shepherd was nervously aggressive and bit me once lightly. She was having none of it. Finally we said ‘OK let’s make two snow ramps and chase her out’.

“I’m glad to say it worked! She ran up and out to us. It took five attempts to get the dog; such a strong dog. Took four of us to pin her but yes we did it.”

He added: “The owners are lovely and all happy and so am I.”

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team said it was alerted to the incident by police about 12.30pm on Tuesday. “As the team arrived at Red Tarn, they were informed that the dogs had been successfully rescued by a number of climbers who had also witnessed the distressed animals plight and went to their aid – a job well done; thank you.”

Mr Pilling said he had seen evidence of a cornice collapse the following day. “It might have been a different story overnight if the rescue didn’t happen. It also shows that, as expected, the cornice wasn’t that stable. A very sobering thought.

“Thanks to a few of you strangers, who helped me and I don’t know, but trusted each other with techniques of rescue – and this was my first ever rescue. So happy to have a great ending!”

Mr Uney, one of a team of three assessors who make the daily ascent of Helvellyn each winter day to report on weather and conditions, said: “What an amazing outcome. Well done Scott.”

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