Rescuers haul the stretcher carrying the injured walker from Piers Gill. Photo: Keswick MRT

Rescuers haul the stretcher carrying the injured walker from Piers Gill. Photo: Keswick MRT

An injured walker spent 24 hours on the flanks of England’s highest mountain before being rescued.

A major search operation was mounted after the man was reported overdue from an ascent of Sca Fell on Thursday.

A total of 46 volunteers from across Cumbria and beyond were involved, along with two drone pilots from the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association; the Great North Air Ambulance, and Prestwick Coastguard helicopter, along with two mountain rescue search dog handlers and their animals. The rescue lasted almost 17 hours.

The alarm was raised about 50 minutes after midnight when a friend of the walker phoned police to report him missing. The man had set off the previous day, intending to ascend Sca Fell, setting off walking about 7.30am, a Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team spokesperson said.

Police found the walker’s car at Brackenclose, Wasdale Head. The team spokesperson said there was very little other information except that he had intended to return from the fell before a deterioration in the weather in the early afternoon.

Members of the Wasdale and Duddon and Furness teams had been called out earlier on Wednesday to search for four young, inexperienced walkers lost on Scafell Pike.

The Wasdale MRT spokesperson said: “With team members recovering from the previous callout, coupled with the prospect of a major search on both Sca Fell and Scafell Pike – walkers often talk about Sca Fell but really mean Scafell Pike – the team leader escalated the callout to regional level, requesting support from all other Lake District teams.

“The poor weather of the previous day made the search urgent due to risk of hypothermia. Visibility was still poor and the temperature was forecast to drop further through the day.”

Wasdale team members set off towards Scafell Pike about 4.40am, and other rescuers were allocated roles in the operation as they arrived at their base or remotely. Members of the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association and Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England made their way onto the hill, and the Coastguard helicopter joined the search.

The spokesperson said: “As the digital map began to fill with many traces of individual rescuers, a shout was heard by the Cockermouth MRT team from the bottom of Piers Gill. The team were able to access the location with a rope system.”

Piers Gill is a deep ravine leading off the Corridor Route to Scafell Pike and is an accident blackspot, with walkers mistaking it for the main route and becoming cragfast in the difficult terrain or falling.

“Unfortunately the walker had suffered injuries to both ankles, amongst other injuries, and as such medical treatment and evacuation by stretcher was required,” the spokesperson said. “He had been in the gill injured for about 24 hours by this point having mis-navigated on his descent from the summit.

“Other teams on the hill then migrated to the evacuation point with further medical equipment. Specialist rope rescue equipment, stretcher, and further casualty packaging was flown from the valley with additional team members by Coastguard helicopter Rescue 199.

“Medical assessment and treatment were given in the gill before a technical rescue was then undertaken, led by the Cockermouth team and with assistance from all the other teams present.

“Having done the hard bit, the normally straightforward part of either a stretcher carry or helicopter transport from the scene proved difficult. With weather conditions thwarting a helicopter extraction, and steep ground below preventing a descent by stretcher, the safest and quickest option was an uphill carry to Lingmell Col.

“After an energy sapping journey, also helped by a passing Assynt MRT team member, the walker was transferred into the care of the awaiting Helimed 58 crew. He was then flown to hospital for further treatment.

“We wish the walker a quick recovery from his injuries.

“We’d like to offer huge thanks to all supporting teams and agencies, including offers received later in the morning and not required. This is an example of fantastic multi-agency working, both voluntary and professional, to get the best possible outcome for the walker. As a team we are very thankful for the swift response to help.”

Mountain Rescue Teams involved in the rescue were: Wasdale, Duddon and Furness, Coniston, Kirkby Stephen, Keswick, Cockermouth, Kendal and Assynt.

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