Scafell Pike summitMountain teams spent most of last night searching in appalling conditions for two parties of walkers which had gone missing on England’s highest mountain.

Scafell Pike summit

Twenty-five rescuers from five separate teams scoured the area between Scafell Pike and Langdale for two sets of walkers who failed to turn up at their valley rendezvous. The rescue teams faced heavy rain and thunderstorms during the operation, which lasted seven hours.

The nine people, from the same party but walking separately in groups of four and five, eventually turned up unharmed in another valley. The nine were taking part in the national Three Peaks Challenge, which entails tackling Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours.

A spokesman for Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team said it was the tenth time this year his team had been called out to aid Three Peaks Challengers.

The Wasdale team was called out at 11.45 last night, Saturday, after the walkers failed to arrive at their transport in Great Langdale. They had reported reaching Scafell Pike summit more than five hours earlier.

Wasdale MRT in action earlier Wasdale MRT was joined by colleagues from Langdale-Ambleside, Duddon and Furness, and Keswick teams, along with dog handlers from the Search and Rescue Dogs Association.

Wasdale MRT in action earlier

The missing fellwalkers eventually were found near Cockley Beck, between Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass.

A Wasdale MRT spokesman said: “They were cold and wet but otherwise safe and well.”

In June, authorities in the Lake District made a plea to those undertaking the Three Peaks Challenge to consider making donations to the mountain rescue teams in the area, all of which are volunteer-staffed charities.

Richard Warren, chairman of the umbrella group for the Lakeland MRTs, said at the time: “Unlike the police, fire and ambulance services, we do not receive any public money to fund the mountain rescue service.

“We are totally dependent on voluntary donations. I am sure that when this is explained to people taking part in mountain challenges, like the Three Peaks, many of them will want to make some kind of contribution to our service.”

Three Peaks Challengers put increasing strains on the rescue teams, particularly Wasdale in whose area Scafell Pike lies, because many are unaccustomed to mountain walking and lack the navigational skills and mountaincraft to help themselves when in trouble.

The sheer number taking part in these challenges, often to raise cash for other charities, also causes major disruption for residents in isolated communities such as Wasdale Head, where roads cannot cope with the number of vehicles involved.