The Cost of Getting Lost on a Mountain
The Lake District around Scafell Pike
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!
Hiking Mountains Safely
- Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team
- Be Properly Equipped for your Mountain Walk
To walk up one of Britain's highest mountains you should be properly equipped. The minimum requirement is a good fitting pair of walking boots, but don't forget the other items which will help you reach the summit safe, dry and warm.