WASDALE MOUNTAIN RESCUE TEAM (Early History added July 02)

Introduction to the Team Plus Some Do's and Don'ts (mostly Do's)

 Written by Mr. Mike Greene - Deputy Team Leader - Consultant Accident & Emergency Medicine



Wasdale MRT has been assisting people in the western fells for almost 35 years.  It is one of twelve Teams in the Lake District Search and Rescue Association.  The Team consists of 40 fell going volunteers and several base operators.  Each year we respond to between 50 – 60 calls from the police to rescue people who are injured or lost in the local mountains.  We also assist other organisations when requested.  For example In 1996 the Team used its Landrover and expertise to assist the Cumbria Ambulance Service in the deep snow and last year we assisted the coastguard in a rescue near St Bees. 

The Team has a geographical area that covers principally the Wasdale and Eskdale valleys but extends over Cold Fell towards the coast in the north and onto Ulpha Fell in the South.  England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike is part of our area and is the scene for many rescues.

 The Rescue Team provides a 24-hour per day 365 days a year service to the public.

The Wasdale Team performs approximately 60 call outs each year. 2001 = 54  2000 = 1999 = 69

The Team members come from a variety of backgrounds.  There are engineers; train drivers, builders, doctors, teachers and yes even an innkeeper!   They have in common a love of the mountains and a willingness to get out of a warm bed at two o’clock on a cold wet day to rescue someone who is in difficulty.   Each member has individual skills as a climber, navigator, medical skills or search dog handler.  By working together they form an effective Team to find those who are lost in remote Eskdale or injured on Scafell Pike.

To join the Rescue Team you must already have a broad experience of mountaineering in a wide range of terrains and weather conditions.  Once accepted as a probationary member there is a period of training and evaluation prior to being considered for full membership and call out duties.  Team training takes place one evening each month and on six full days a year.  Special practice sessions working with our inflatable rescue boat on Wastwater and with helicopters are essential features of the yearly calendar.   Specific rescue skills such as casualty care, using radios, rigging ropes systems for rescue and search techniques are practiced.

 The Team has a Base in Gosforth from which operations in the Wasdale and Eskdale valleys can be controlled.  Here there is a radio control room, training and briefing rooms and the garages for our vehicles.   The Team uses two Landrovers, and a minibus to carry personnel and equipment to the nearest road head to the incident.  The rest of the journey is on foot carrying the rescue and medical equipment required for the incident.   In about 15% of incidents we work with RAF Search and Rescue helicopters. 

A Mountain Rescue Team is mobilised by the police. The Team Leader who receives the call will call individual members by a pager system.  They have to leave their work or leisure activities and attend the incident.  It is usual to have about 25 volunteers on each rescue.   A single stretcher party requires 8 people who need frequent changes and additional personal are required to treat the casualty and handle rope systems and communications as well as man the Base. 

A typical rescue would be a call at five o’ clock in the afternoon reporting someone with a broken ankle on Scafell Pike (the highest mountain in England).  The Advanced party of about 5 people will be away from base in 15 mins and set off up the Wasdale Valley to locate the casualty, make the site safe and administer first aid.  Communications can be maintained both with the base and other Team members using hand portable radios.  Once the casualty is located shelter can be provided using a light -weight bivi tent and fleece lined casualty bag.  The casualty is reassessed and the injured ankle can be splinted and made comfortable using analgesics.  The remainder of the Team soon arrive on site bring the two piece stretcher, and any ropes or gear needed for the evacuation.  As the rain starts to fall the stretcher is carried back to the valley and a waiting Ambulance ready for transfer to Hospital.  The wet gear must be sorted and dried, Team members must explain to their friends and partners why they are late home again with a car boot of wet smelly clothes!  We wait for the next call out.

Mountain Rescue in the UK is a based on volunteers.   Many Rescue Teams have charitable status and must self finance their activities and training.  Donations to Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team can be made to the treasurer

Mr R Longman The Croft Nethertown Road St Bees.


It cost about £15,000 a year to provide this service.  All this must be raised from donations.

History of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team from 1966 to 2002 

by Alan Dunn active and founder member, asset Trustee and former Leader

(written 27 June 2002)

13 February 1966 Wyndham Search Team Formed
30 September 1968 Name changed to Wasdale Mountain rescue Team
12 July 1969 Team affiliated to the Mountain Rescue Committee and the rescuer equipment at the Wastwater Hotel [now Wasdale Head Inn] transferred to the team.
1972 Base with telephone and base radio established in an out-building of the Wastwater Hotel.
1977 Mill Forge purchased
7 September  1979 Mill Forge officially opened by Sid Cross (Chairman LDSAMRA)

Early History of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team

Formed on the 13th February 1966, following a training exercise with the Cockermouth team in Ennerdale, it was initially called the Wyndham Search Team.  The initiative for it's formation came from the tutor of the newly opened Wyndham Centre at Egremont, David Killick.  A keen fell walker himself, he organised rock climbing tuition on the Centre's climbing wall and mountain leadership training.

Over the next three years the team worked with both the Cockermouth and Eskdale Outward Bound teams whilst also developing it's own mountain rescue skills.  At the AGM on the 30th September 1968, the team changed it's name to the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team intending to fill a gap between the Cockermouth and Eskdale teams. 

Affiliation to the Mountain Rescue Committee came on the 12th July 1969, when the rescue equipment at the Wasdale Head Post was officially transferred to the team.  A complete rescue base with radio and telephone communications was established there in an out-building of the Wastwater Hotel during 1972.  This served as the team's HQ until 1977 when an old stone built workshop at Gosforth was purchased, known as Mill Forge it was converted to an operational base with garaging for two vehicles during 1977/78.  It was officially opened by Sid Cross, Chairman of the Lake District Search and Rescue organisation on the 7th September 1979.



Ensure your own safety and that of the casualty from a further fall or injury. 

Follow the A  – I of Mountain First Aid.

Make the casualty as comfortable as possible and provide shelter from the elements.  All injured and immobile casualties are at risk of hypothermia.

Ensure the safety of the rest of the party.

Call for help by attracting the attention of others on the fells.  Use the International distress signal of a series of six blasts of a whistle or flashes of a torch to attract attention.

Send for help.  Send two people if possible.  Write down a message giving the exact location, time of accident, nature of injuries and other details as known.

Dial 999 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue.





By:  Mr. Mike Greene FRCS FFAEM

Consultant Accident & Emergency Medicine

Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team


A - Assess the accident site.

      Assess the safety of the casualty, other party members and yourself.

      Assess the cause of the accident -  it will provide clues to the injuries


A - Approach with care - do not cause a second accident.


A - Airway.  Ask the patient a question.  A casualty who can talk has an open airway.  If they are not responsive an airway problem can be anticipated.  LOOK, LISTEN & FEEL  for air movement at the mouth.

If  this is not present remove any obvious vomit or foreign material from the mouth using a finger.  The tongue can be lifted from the back of the mouth using a jaw lift or thrust manoeuvre.  Avoid  moving the neck of an unconscious injured climber.  The cervical spine should be held still by another helper and then immobilised before they are transported to prevent injury to the spinal cord.



B - Breathing.  LOOK & FEEL for movements of the chest wall.

The chest should move symmetrically and the normal rate of breathing is 12 - 16 breaths per minute.  Fast or slow rates should alert you to a potentially serious problem that will prompt a high degree of urgency for rescue.


C - Circulation.  Blood loss may be obvious from a wound or open fracture.  In general applying direct pressure and elevating the limb if this is possible should control external bleeding.  Internal bleeding into the chest or abdomen maybe expected from the mechanism of accident and the casualty’s physical condition.  Look for signs of severe blood loss - a fast pulse > 100 per minuet, rapid breathing, pallor, sweaty skin and anxiety or loss of consciousness.  These signs require a high degree of urgency in rescue.



D - Disability.  This really means conscious level.  Is the casualty Alert and can answer all your questions, only responds to Verbal commands, worse only to Pain or are they  Unresponsive ?   ( A.V.P.U. score)  This information will be helpful to the rescue team in assessing the urgency of the situation.  Reassess the conscious level of a casualty with a head injury at regular intervals and report changes to the team.


E - Exposure to the elements. Any mountain casualty is at risk of rapid cooling and hypothermia as are the accompanying party and rescuers.

Arrange shelter and insulation from the ground as soon as possible to prevent the condition from becoming worse.



F - Fractures.  LOOK & FEEL for fractures.  These are common in mountaineering accidents.  Look in particular for suspected fractures of the spine were inappropriate movement may cause further damage, rib fractures which may have injured the lungs and pelvic fractures which can bleed heavily.  Immobilise and splint a fractured limb.  Provide suitable pain relief if possible.


G & H  - Get Help.  If you use a cell phone stay where you are and DO NOT TURN IT OFF  - the rescue team will want to talk to you for more information after you have dialed 999 and spoken to the police. The number of casualties and an assessment of injuries.


I - I hope you never have to use this information!


Good Luck.





Get your party into shelter and assess your situation.

Decide are you in real danger or just lost?

Think back to what you have been doing.

What was your last definite known location e.g. summit of a mountain?

What type of terrain have you been walking on?  Which direction have you been walking (you need a compass to work this out!)? For how long have you been walking? Use your navigation skills to work out an estimated position.

Can you now retrace your steps to a known position of safely and start again?

Can you use the estimated position to travel on safely and collect more navigational clues until you get a definite fix of your position and can walk out safely?

Consider if  you have the equipment to navigate off the fell safety e.g. map, compass, torch.

Is the party able to finish the journey safely?

What would be the consequence of a night out on the fells – unpleasant or really dangerous?  If really trapped on the mountain seek shelter and use your emergency equipment to keep the party warm and a whistle and torch to attach attention.

If there is real danger to the party or individuals call for help using a mobile phone if it will work!





Select a route and objective suitable for the party members and their experience.


Get a weather forecast and consider its consequence on your plans.


Leave a route card with your personal details, the intended route, your equipment and estimated time of arrival at your destination with someone responsible.


Wear suitable clothing make sure you have warm windproof and waterproof clothing whatever the time of year.  Wear good walking boots with suitable soles.


Carry basic survival equipment, food and spare clothes for the time of year.  Remember conditions can change quickly on the hills and even a mid summer day can have gale force winds and rain.


Always carry a map, compass and torch and learn how to navigate before going onto the high fells.


Enjoy your day take home nothing but good memories and photographs and leave nothing behind except gentle footprints.

 Page added to Website 31st March 2002