Wasdale rescue and the ridiculous things I’ve seen on mountains

A FEW weeks back I saw a report from Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team whose members were called out to rescue six people stuck at the summit of Scafell Pike; an incident they referred to as “an example of a totally avoidable call out”.

The call out came at five past five in the evening, meaning it was dark, and the group were described as “very inexperienced, had no torches, inadequate footwear and not enough warm clothes for a hike up England’s highest mountain in winter conditions”.

Many years ago I was on a summer’s hike from the old Dungeon Ghyll pub in Great Landgale taking in Pike of Blisco, Great Knott, Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell before returning via the Cumbria Way from Angle Tarn.

On the way down Crinkle Crags I bounced past a man and his two young sons who were sat down having a breather. As I was level with them I casually said to them “not far to the top”.

The man was wearing a cotton T-shirt, trainers and tennis shorts and his sons, who were possibly about 10 or 12 years of age, were similarly dressed. He was also holding a 500ml bottle of water (I don’t recall how much was in it) and a page of the area torn from a road map.

We exchanged a few pleasantries before I realised that he thought he was almost near the top of Scafell Pike. I had to point out that it was “over there” across the River Esk valley. And then he asked me if he could get there and back that day.

I’m currently reading a book called Run Wild by Boff Whalley, an experienced fell runner and former member of the band Chumbawamba, and early on he describes how he came across a man and his two also on Crinkle Crags who also thought they were ascending Scafell Pike.

But neither of those stories compare with the group of four friends I met on the way down Ben Nevis a couple of years ago.

Somewhere among the zigzag section on the tourist path the group had lost a dog and were making their way up the track while shouting its name.

I said I’d look out for it and then carried on down. Not much further on I spotted a medium-sized dog sniffing its way among the rocks near the path. It looked like it was having a great time; totally unaware that its owners were several metres up the track, looking in completely the wrong place and panicking.

While my walking partner for the day kept an eye on the dog I marched back up the track to the owners; who were wearing not much more than jeans, T-shirts and trainers.

I sometimes think that if I lived in an area with a mountain rescue service, my nearest is Upper Wharfedale, would I have ever got involved?

Probably not, but I like to think I do my bit by popping a few coins in collection boxes and taking part in fundraising events such as the CRO Ingleborough Challenge and the UWFRA Three Peaks Challenge.

If you’ve never taken part in one of these fundraising challenges before, make 2017 the year that you do. Not only will your entry fee help to swell the coffers but you’ll have a great day out, and there’ll be a good chance you’ll be in an area that you might never have been to before.

You might also help to save the life of an unprepared individual.

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