Rescuers said the stretcher box was ransacked. Photo: LDSMRA

Rescuers said the stretcher box was ransacked. Photo: LDSMRA

A stretcher box high in the Lake District fells has been ransacked, rescuers said.

Visitors to the site at Mickledore also left a disposable barbecue and other rubbish.

The metal container, 840m (2,756ft) up on the flanks of Scafell Pike, contained vital rescue equipment and is clearly marked as with the mountain rescue logo.

Richard Warren, chairman of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, said: “Amid a surge in callout numbers on and around Scafell Pike in May and across the region more broadly, the mountain rescue stretcher box at Mickledore, between Sca Fell and Scafell Pike, was ransacked over the bank holiday weekend just gone, with some kit now missing and other contents strewn around the fell and left open to the elements, along with a used disposable barbecue and various items of food waste and rubbish.”

He said Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team volunteers have already been up to sort out the mess left behind and ensure the rescue kit is in working order. “At the same time the team have added some simple signage to the stretcher box to help point hikers in the right direction in bad weather, and hopefully reduce callouts from lost walkers.”

The box is three hours’ walk from the nearest road.

Penny Kirby, a team leader with the local rescue team said: “We have seen a surge of callouts this year since Easter. May has been especially busy, perhaps due to a combination of three bank holidays, people holidaying more at home due to the costs of overseas holidays and the rising cost of living in general.

“The last thing our team of volunteers really want to be doing to is repairing rescue kit and cleaning up disposable barbecue rubbish. We are very concerned about the impact so many callouts are having on our team members, their families, and their work.”

Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team have already had 70 callouts this year, 27 of them in May. This compares to 42 callouts by the end of May in the previous year, and only five in the month of May itself.

In 2021, the team dealt with 19 callouts up until the end of May, and five in May. Team leaders pointed out that the busy summer season is still to come.

Rescuers have added signs to the box to help lost walkers. Photo: LDSMRA

Rescuers have added signs to the box to help lost walkers. Photo: LDSMRA

Ms Kirby said: “We made a decision recently, in consultation with the Lake District National Park Authority and the National Trust, to add some signage to the Mickledore stretcher box to try and help lost walkers find their way safely down the fells and reduce callout numbers.

“Roughly 60 per cent of our callouts in the Wasdale team are on Scafell Pike and in recent years around 60 per cent of those are for lost or missing walkers. Anything we can do to help them self-rescue and reduce the number of times we are called out is worth a try.”

Teams throughout the Lake District are seeing a significant increase in the number of callouts. Mr Warren said: “The highest year on record for callouts across the region was 2021 which saw 681 callouts in total across the year, 141 of those by the end of May.

“So far this year that figure for callouts by the end of May is 261 – an 85 per cent increase on 2021.”

The UK’s mountain rescue service is provided by unpaid volunteers, trained to professional standards. The teams are urging members of the public to use the AdventureSmart UK website for advice on preparing for venturing onto the hills and reducing the high demand for rescue caused by walkers becoming lost and missing.

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