[W]ALKERS setting off to climb Scafell on bank holiday Sunday (27th May) will be quizzed over how well prepared they are to tackle England’s highest mountain. It comes at a time when calls to the volunteer run mountain rescue are at their highest ever, and 17 people lost their life in mountain rescue related incidents last year.
The National Trust has organised this fact-finding day with the Mountain Rescue and Cumbria Police at their Wasdale Head car park at Brackenclose, one of the main starting points for an ascent of Scafell Pike. Those leaving the car park for a day in the hills will be asked about what they have packed to take with them, local weather conditions and how long their planned walk should take. The intention is to learn from walkers and for walkers to have an even better day on the mountain.
Richard Warren, Chairman of the Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association (LDSAMRA) and member of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team says that many of the 140 callouts received by the Wasdale team last year were for Scafell Pike. Already this year they have responded to 34 callouts including three fatalities and a serious injury on Friday 18 May. And the latter involved 11 team members, three rescue vehicles, an air ambulance and a Coastguard helicopter. Richard anticipates the team’s 38 volunteers to be called out at least three to four times a week during the peak summer holiday period. He says this is potentially unstainable for a purely volunteer organisation. Richard said: “We need to reduce the growing number of avoidable callouts with an effective education and awareness programme covering safety, personal responsibility and respect in the mountains and surrounding areas.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall, who is joining part of the fact-finding day said: “I am really pleased to be with our partners for what promises to be an interesting day. It will be helpful for us all to understand a bit more about the range of experience and knowledge of the walkers who will be setting off to climb Scafell Pike – not least to get people thinking about the level of challenge they are about to face and how prepared they are for it. It is not about spoiling people’s fun but about listening to walkers, understanding their expectations, and ultimately about people having a safe and enjoyable experience.”
Superintendent Matt Kennerley from Cumbria Police added: “Walking Scafell Pike can be dangerous if you are ill-prepared for what may lie ahead. The priority of us all is to make sure that everyone who sets off on such an endeavour is able to return home safely at the end. The mountain rescue volunteers carry out an invaluable role in helping to bring those who get into difficulty back to safety. However, this Sunday’s engagement activity will hopefully help raise awareness of the potential difficulties and reduce the likelihood of more people getting into trouble and requiring help.”
Event organiser Marian Silvester, the National Trust’s General Manager in the West Lakes said: “Our welcome staff, rangers and campsite team regularly talk to the thousands of visitors who climb Scafell Pike from Wasdale every year. We also provide route and weather information boards in Lake Head car park. It will be good to learn from our colleagues and walkers as part of partnership working. We all want people to have a great experience walking to the top of England’s highest mountain and back.”