Searches for lost or missing walkers made up almost a third of callouts

Searches for lost or missing walkers made up almost a third of callouts

Rescuers in the Lake District said they are having to deal with avoidable incidents, many involving visitors new to the area during the coronavirus pandemic.

They say they are concerned people coming into Cumbria from very high alert parts of England could put the volunteer teams at risk.

The Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, the umbrella body for teams in the area, said the overall number of rescues is down on the previous year, but many callouts could be avoided with forethought and preparation.

Richard Warren, chairman of the association, said: “Truly avoidable callouts, normally down to poor preparation and planning and inadequate equipment and experience remains very high at 30 per cent of all 999 calls.

“Use of the What3words app, a new way of reporting your location has seen a massive increase with nearly 90 separate uses compare to just 13 in 2019. This new app is great in the urban area or open countryside situation with good signals and satellite strength but in the mountains only 75 per cent of the reports have been accurate.

“This means that 1 in 4 of the callouts would put your position over 500m out, and in some case even kilometres out; not helpful when teams are trying to reach you as an injured or lost walker.”

Over lockdown and easing since 23 March the 12 Lake District teams have been called out more than 370 times compared to 451 last year. August was an exceptional month with over 107 callouts compared to 71 in 2019.

Incidents involving injuries, typically ankles and wrists, have risen by five per cent. Callouts to lost and missing walkers, normally about a quarter of teams’ responses, have risen to more than 30 per cent.

Mr Warren said many callouts can be attributed to new visitors coming into Cumbria during the Covid-19 crisis. He said many of these are from areas in England in tier three restrictions. This is a serious concern for the volunteer team members who have to protect themselves during rescues against contracting the virus from potential asymptomatic walkers.

Callouts to injured walkers have also increased

Callouts to injured walkers have also increased

“Also for our team leaders, keeping their teams safe and fully operational, avoiding the scenario where the whole team could be forced into a 14 day self-isolation. Not good news for any walkers or climbers needing critical help on the mountains.”

He urged those venturing on to the hills and countryside of the Lake District to exercise within their limits and avoid taking risks especially now that winter has arrived.

“Know your level of skill, competence and experience and those of your group. Make sure you have the right equipment for your trip to the hills and valleys, noting that many of our callouts are low down in the valley bottoms.

“Learn how to navigate; take a waterproof map and a compass; don’t rely on smartphone technology – it can let you down. Take a torch, even on the longest days, you never know when your activity will catch you out or you go to the help of a fallen, cragfast or lost walker.

“Take a powerbank battery charger; it will save you a lot of grief plus allow you to take even more of the memory photos. Be kind to our volunteers and respectful to our emergency service, our rural communities and to our farmers.”

The association said there is good and essential advice on the Adventure Smart website, and urged Lakeland visitors to consult its pages before heading out.

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. Rescuers urge hillgoers to go prepared as Lakeland teams deal with ‘avoidable’ callouts
  2. Anti-social visitors force closure of Stonethwaite campsite in Lake District
  3. Lake District rescuers urge winter hillgoers to be prepared following two deaths
  4. Lake District rescuers join training exercise with privatised helicopters
  5. Six callouts in three hours for Edale rescuers as visitors descend on Peak District