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The Cost of Getting Lost on a Mountain

Updated on August 3, 2012

The Lake District around Scafell Pike


Mountain Safety

Map = £8

Compass = £5

Cost of helicopter rescue mission when neither of these items were purchased = £24,000!

Mountains are, well, mountains. They are literally not a walk in the park. A hike up a mountain, particularly the highest mountain in England is not like taking a dog for a stroll across gently undulating hills. Yet everyday thousands of people set off to climb up Scafell Pike wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals not even taking into account that at the height of the summit temperatures are going to be well below those at ground level, and the likelihood of mist coming down or rain falling in bucketloads is extremely high.

Even those who are better dressed think they can get to the top simply by following a well marked footpath, not realising that many tracks cross these hills, and that the path all but becomes indistinguishable at the boulder field when you have to look for and follow the marker cairns. And if the cairns disappear in the thick mist caused by a low cloud covering the summit it does not take long to get disoriented and lose your way.

In the last week of July, 2012, a group of three walkers from Manchester set off from Wasdale to climb Scafell Pike. They had no map, no compass, and no waterproofs. They had a wind up torch, but no spare clothes. One man gave up and returned to their starting point, but the other two walked on.

At 8.50 pm the walkers called the emergency services and told them they were lost – when asked where they were all they could say was they were ‘somewhere up the mountain’.

Mountain Rescue now had to search one of the most remote parts of the Lake District, with little information to go on. In all 45 Mountain Rescuers took part from two different teams as well as the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs. An RAF Sea King helicopter was scrambled to help the search. The conditions on the mountain were poor – low temperatures with passing heavy showers.

At 2am the walkers were found, they were cold and wet. They were given a change of clothes and were flown out by the helicopter.

The Mountain Rescue teams are funded solely by voluntary donations, but there is an astronomical cost for the helicopter – it costs £12,000 for each hour it’s away from base, and in this case was flying for two hours.

So, a rescue that costs £24,000, involving 45 volunteer rescuers and a whole search team of dogs could have been avoided had a few pounds been spent on a map and compass, and a few minutes spent learning how to use them.

The moral of the story being if you are going to climb a mountain, take time to understand what your walk will be like. Take account of the weather conditions, and make sure you know how to navigate – particularly when the mists come down.

Cost of the enjoyment of reaching the summit safely = Priceless!


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    • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

      Lovelovemeloveme 5 years ago from Cindee's Land

      thanks for the hub. Wow, i didn't know it costs that much to be rescued.

      But what amazes me more is that people would go on these potentially dangerous expeditions without any proper preparations.

    • Trish Haill profile image

      Trish Haill 5 years ago from Essex, England

      My ex sister in law used to do a lot of hiking in CA - she told me what you're supposed to do meeting bears or lions, but I can't remember which way round it is. Luckily we don't have those hazards in the UK. Mist cover on the summit of Ben Nevis in Scotland is about 90% of the year!

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Interesting story about the three hikers. In N Sierras (California), where I do most of my hiking, we don't have the extreme misty conditions that you describe. If we did, I'd invest in a GPS, and then learn how to use it. Geocaching is supposed to be a fun way to learn the basics.

      We do need to be mindful of the overgrown kitty-cats though. :) Voted up.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, welcome to Hubpages! Good topic and well written. There are some improvements that I could suggest, being an almost newbie myself: add more scenic photos, you missed out on a chance to really attract the eye of the reader! Also, in my opinion you have too many ads for equipment in relation to the amount of words in your text. I do suggest you read through the Learning Center articles, they are always a great help! Wishing you a great future on Hubpages! Voted up, useful and interesting!