Wasdale Mountain Rescue team were alerted by Cumbria Police at 18.26 hrs on Monday 20 February about a lone walker who had reported himself as lost on the ridge between Scafell Pike and Great End in the Lake District. Mobile phone reception was very poor, but a location was quickly established and although the weather was deteriorating with thick mist and rain, he was asked to stay where he was and shelter from the wind. Under these conditions, a “talk-off” with rapidly declining phone battery and areas of known no signal at all would have meant the Team Leader losing contact with him, and an impossibly large area to search in very dangerous ground.

The team responded quickly as we were already at the rescue base for a training night. Two fast team members, travelling very light with immediate first aid, warm clothing and a shelter were dispatched as there was concern that the casualty would already be very hypothermic. Back up parties followed with additional equipment. The lost walker was not found at the original location, and contact had been lost so a search of the area was mounted in exceptionally difficult conditions. As we had expected to find him at the original location, many of the team members were carrying heavy loads, including stretcher halves. Also an Autopulse which is a life saving mechanical device for carrying out prolonged CPR in the event of a cardiac arrest resulting from severe hypothermia.

Keswick Mountain Rescue Team and Cockermouth search dogs were requested and they approached the search area from the North. By the early hours of the morning he had still not been found and teams reluctantly came off the hill having done all they could overnight in extremely cold and wet conditions. The search continued at first light with more Rescue Team members and search dogs from across Cumbria and the North East. The weather remained wet and very misty, making searching in bad ground very challenging and negating the use of helicopter support. He was eventually found at around 14.30hrs as teams were making their way off the hill, on the East bank of Piers Gill. He was hypothermic, with knee, leg and foot injuries, but thankfully alive. Teams brought a stretcher and necessary equipment up to the scene, and after treatment he was stretchered off the hill and taken to hospital.

We rarely comment on a rescue, but in this case, we would like to say he was very, very fortunate to have survived his ordeal. We also have to say that google maps on smart phones are not suitable for navigating on the hills, they lack detail and of course will not work with a flat battery. There is no substitute for a map and compass and being able to use them. They can save one’s life. There were over 70 rescuers from 9 teams involved along with search dogs and team drones. The team wishes to thank the incredible support provided from all the teams that were involved from across Cumbria and from adjacent regions. Also the willingness of both the Helimed and Coastguard helicopter to respond, but prevented by the bad weather.

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