News Item

Rescuers shocked by walkers' lack of basic outdoors skills

Mountain rescuers in the Lake District have blasted charity hikers' ill-equipped climbing expeditions armed only with GPS on mobile phones.

Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team (MRT), which patrols England's tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, recorded another record-breaking year of activity in 2016 - thanks to lost climbers armed only with GPS mobile phones.

Now the busy volunteers have slammed ill-thought-out and badly-equipped charity walking expeditions, after facing 3 farcical call-outs in 24 hours within the past couple of weeks.

As 90mph Storm Doris tore through the UK, Wasdale MRT were stunned to find groups of charity hikers trekking up the 3,209 ft mountain. One party of 36 inexperienced climbers even included 4 terrified teenage girls - 2 found huddled behind a boulder suffering from mild hypothermia.

The MRT leader commented that people needed to respect the Lake District mountains more and stop treating them like a joke: 'It is unusual for people to carry out charity walks in winter! At this time of the year they are taking a risk. Conditions were extremely poor, with forecasted torrential rain and severe winds and visibility down to 20 metres. The descent can only be described as extremely challenging, even for the rescuers, and the 4 girls needed regular strong encouragement to keep moving. February is not a good time to organise a charity walk with inexperienced walkers.'

Wasdale MRT finally brought down the teenagers to be reunited with their friends at about 2030 on 21 February. But while carrying out that rescue, the exhausted team of volunteers received a second and then even a third call out.

The MRT leader explained: 'The third incident was dealt with by Keswick MRT, assisted by members of Wasdale MRT. The missing couple had set off from the Borrowdale side to climb Scafell Pike and were deemed at high risk due to worsening conditions. It is becoming quite shocking the level of ill-preparedness and lack of basic outdoor skills necessary to safely get up a mountain.'

The search was called off at midnight but reconvened at 0800 the following morning and involved 7 of the Lake District's 10 MRTs plus a Coastguard helicopter. The missing couple were eventually located in upper Eskdale at ~1100 by the Duddon and Furness MRT.

Back in 2016, Lake District mountain rescuers blasted unprepared climbers and walkers after revealing that the year was a record year for call-outs. They spoke of their shock at how walkers lack 'basic' outdoors skills and use mobile phone GPS instead of a map and compass, adding that their pleas for people to climb in suitable clothing, plan routes and learn to read a map are falling on deaf ears. 'It is becoming quite shocking the level of ill-preparedness and lack of basic outdoor skills necessary to safely get up a mountain. We have been trying to reduce the numbers of avoidable incidents with little success. We are all volunteers and there is a limit to what we can do.'

The Mountain Rescue England and Wales website urges readers to only use mobile phones for making emergency calls - not for map-reading: 'A map and compass are essential kit and should be easily accessible - not buried in the rucksack! A mobile phone and GPS are useful tools, but don't rely on your mobile to get you out of trouble - in many areas of the mountains there is no signal coverage. Your mobile phone may not be the most reliable way of calling for help. Batteries can very quickly run flat and signal coverage in the hills is still a hit and miss affair.'

Photo credit: Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team. Further details from the links below . .

  • 02 March 2017
  • RIN

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