The group got lost looking for the cave on Dove Crag, left. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The group got lost looking for the cave on Dove Crag, left. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Forty mountain rescuers were woken in the early hours of Sunday after a group of walkers called for help after getting lost.

The four had attempted to find the Priest’s Hole in foul weather, where they intended to stay the night.

The cave, high on Dove Crag in the Lake District, has become increasingly popular since it was featured in a television broadcast.

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team was alerted by police at 4.09am to respond to a report of four very wet and cold walkers lost on the 792m (2,598ft) mountain.

A team spokesperson said: “The Priest’s Hole has grown in popularity following the BBC’s Secret Britain programme in 2016.

“Since the programme was aired, Patterdale MRT members have responded to several serious incidents, including a fatal accident at the site. The programme has definitely increased the number of people attempting to spend the night there.”

The team’s leader Mike Blakey said: ‘The Priest’s Hole is not an easy place to find and it sits high on the face of Dove Crag, an overhanging cliff.

“The route in and out can be dangerous and the start of the path can be difficult to locate, even for experienced walkers who know the location.

“I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of understanding and taking note of the weather forecast. Just like last weekend, the unpleasant weather was forecast and therefore wholly predictable.

“Walkers must make sure they are properly equipped for their adventures and the weather. This means that you need waterproofs when it rains.

“Although rescue teams are always willing to respond to those in need, people do need to make sure they are well prepared and resilient enough to at least take care of themselves until rescuers arrive. With the right equipment people can often take care of themselves and walk out after sunrise, when things often look better.

“When anyone calls for a mountain rescue team a chain of events unfolds from the 999 telephone call onwards.

“It starts with team members being alerted by the police, ambulance or Coastguard) via SMS, email and landline messages from the Sarcall system. One simple call can wake 40 team members, as it did at 4 o’clock this morning.

“From that point on, the rescue team’s duty leader will try to establish contact and work out where the injured or missing person is. In this instance, they were sitting right on the ‘border’ between Langdale MRT and Patterdale MRT. Given the four people were reporting that they were very wet and cold, both rescue teams went to their aid.

“On this occasion, as the people had a 4G signal, we asked of them to download OS Locate on to their mobile device. Within just a few minutes they were able to provide the team with a grid reference, which turns a potential search into a rescue as team members can go directly to that location.”

The four poorly walkers were found safely about 7.15 by team members from Patterdale and Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Teams. The incident lasted six hours.

In October 2016, Kevin Ryan fell 500ft to his death from near the cave, while with a group planning to spend the night in the cave.

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