The Coastguard helicopter with rescuers at the scene. Photo: Keswick MRT

The Coastguard helicopter with rescuers at the scene. Photo: Keswick MRT

A pair of exhausted and hypothermic walkers might not have survived a night on a Lake District mountain if they hadn’t been found, rescuers said.

A major operation was mounted late on Wednesday when the walkers, both in their 70s, failed to return from the Helvellyn massif.

The pair were part of a walking group from north-east England on a day trip to the Lake District.

Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, which was called out to search for the missing walkers, said they were reported as experienced and well equipped. “Other walking parties from the same group were able to confirm that they had last been seen at about 1.30pm at Nick Head heading towards Sticks Pass,” a team spokesperson said. “The pair had also left a route plan with the trip organisers.”

A dozen team volunteers began searching the pair’s intended route over the Helvellyn massif and the escape routes off the ridge to the East.

The spokesperson said: “Support was requested from the Lake District search dogs and two handlers were deployed to search the high corries to the side of the ridge.

“In addition Keswick MRT were mobilised to search the routes down the west side of the mountain. Both missing persons were reported as carrying a mobile phone; these appeared to receive text messages, but calls went directly to voicemail.

“As the search progressed the cloud cleared from the mountain and the team requested a Coastguard helicopter to over fly the area with night-vision and infrared search equipment.”

About 11pm two members of Patterdale MRT discovered the two walkers close to the path just south of the summit of Whiteside. “Both casualties were exhausted and significantly hypothermic with one of them confused and disoriented,” the spokesperson said.

The Patterdale team members were joined by one of the dog handlers and members of the Keswick team, and between them they got the pair into a shelter and survival bags, applied heat packs, and provided additional clothing, food and drinks.

The helicopter flew to collect the pair, one of whom was stretchered to the aircraft, and they were both flown to Cumbria Infirmary, Carlisle.

The spokesperson said: “Patterdale MRT would like to thank Keswick MRT, Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs and the crew of Rescue 199 for their assistance with this successful search and rescue operation.

“The pair might well not have survived the night, but they undoubtedly helped themselves by leaving a clear plan of their intended route.

“As the nights draw in, the weather worsens, and the clocks go back, Patterdale MRT would like to remind parties to be well prepared for all conditions.” The team urged hillgoers to visit the AdventureSmart website before planning their next outing.

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