Rescue of 5 Walkers in Piers Gill

Friday 26th October 2007

(updated 5/11/07)

7:72 26/10/07( 4.12 p.m.) - Friday

Paged by the Police following a '999' mobile call reporting 2 teenage male walkers who were somewhere near Scafell Pike, overlooking a river and stick on a rocky ledge.  One of the walkers had injuries.  Due to the uncertainty of location the team leader requested additional manpower for the search and eventual carry off.  Duddon & Furness MRT, Cockermouth MRT and Keswick MRT were called in to help with the search.  Early into the search the advance came upon a group who were aware that the fallen walker was located in Piers Gill. One of the walkers had fallen 20m down a rock step in the bottom of the Gill and landed on his back.  His only injuries were bumps, bruises and sore ribs.  His only evacuation route was to be hauled up a 100m rocky gulley.  The  four crag fast walkers had to be roped out from their location, belayed from above as they traversed out of their precarious location and then back up Piers Gill to Lingmel Col.  Weather conditions for the rescue were severe with low cloud and driving rain. - the following extract from the press release summarizes the incident which closed at 1.00 a.m. on the 27th with all the missing and injured persons accounted for.  

Nature of incident and details of injuries:

Wasdale MRT were called to assist what they thought was a party of 2 fell walkers who were stuck on a ledge overlooking a river on Scafell Pike – no further information!  As the incident unfolded it became apparent that the incident involved 6 fell walkers, 2 separate parties of 3 who had joined forces after losing the path in thick cloud and heavy rain.  They had strayed into Piers Gill, an accident black spot in Wasdale where 4 of the party became crag fast, one fell some distance into the bottom of the gill and the sixth managed to make his way out where he met the rescue team who were searching for the 2 “reported|” missing walkers.  After a very difficult and technical extrication all 6 walkers were escorted back to the valley.  Miraculously, apart from a few bumps and bruises all were uninjured

Taken to: No hospital treatment needed.

Number of team members involved: 35       

Duration: 8 hours

Other teams or agencies involved:  Cockermouth, Duddon & Furness, Keswick

Further information: Six very lucky people.  Piers Gill contains a severe rock climb.  

Additional marked up photographs here showing how it happened and how they were evacuated - Deputy Leaders account at the bottom of the page.



Looking up towards Lingmel Col in the top left of the photo - Straight Gill has the small stream running down it.  The Chockstone is at the bottom of the picture, 100m below.

Looking back down Piers Gill in the direction of Styhead Pass - Chockstone clearly visible in the middle of the picture  

Looking up Piers Gill with the base of Scafell Pike hidden in the low cloud. This is the point where the rescuers hauled the fallen walker 100m up the side of the ravine

GPS trace of the rescue group who climbed Piers Gill on the western flanks and evacuated the Uncle who had fallen 20m into the base of the gill

Additional marked up photographs here showing how it happened and how they were evacuated (same as the link at top of page)
Note - if the rescued group can add anything else to the sequence of events, or indeed write up their own version of what happened then please feel free to contact me at  - their anonymity, as with all our casualties is maintained and respected.



Looking up Piers Gill from lower down - Chock Stone in middle, Straight Gill carries on up Lingmel Craggs


Looking down Gill towards the corner - Exit gulley where fallen walker lifted out is directly ahead

Looking vertically down the Gill - cragfast walkers were stuck on the top right of photo - drop from where picture takes is around 50m

Looking up the Gill from the corner towards Scafell Pike



Looking down Piers Gill from the Head of the Gill on the Corridor Route



Head of the Gill looking across to the corridor route path - in mist this is the path that is missed in favour of the mistaken route down to the left and into the Piers Gill trap. Cottidor route cuts across and then turns right round the crag - the path to the left heads down the top of Piers Gill back down to Wasdale via a 10m rock step scramble



The following has been written for the MR(E&W) magazine


A broken mobile phone call had been received by the police at 16:00 on 26/10/07 from a group of youths who had become lost descending from Scafell Pike.  They were now cragfast on a ledge and one of them group had fallen beneath.  The sole clue at that time to location was that they could see a valley with a stream in it below them and no further contact could be made. Where to start? Triangulation of the phone location was unsuccessful but the signal had been received at Threlkeld so slopes with a north-east aspect were most likely, and for a signal to get out at all suggested they were relatively high.

Given the paucity of information and the potential event the Team Leader called in other MRT from the beginning as they could be almost anywhere on the Scafell massif.  Wasdale plus Cockermouth would cover Wasdale, and then the tops overlooking Eskdale, up which Duddon & Furness would ascend.  Keswick would come up onto Great End.  A helicopter would be no use due to lowering cloud level and rain.  Given the known urgency we did not have a normal full team search briefing but had an immediate staged deployment of pair search parties more akin to a casualty pickup, but with additional problems of logistics on where to send critical equipment. 

Early on one of the search parties found a group about to phone 999 regarding missing family, and shortly afterwards another met a distraught youth who described an epic descent/fall/swim out of what could only be Piers Gill; it was confirmed these were the same incident.  Two separate parties of 3 had descended together and got off route.  The single adult had fallen into the stream bed and had injured his head at least.  Four youths were left cragfast from the fall location half way up the western wall, and the last youth had amazingly managed to climb down then drop the last big pitch of the gill to get out uninjured: by rights he should have been a second casualty. 

Time to change gear, both equipment and speed, as the drops into Piers Gill are not small.  Our tame fell runner who had been near the Pike summit when the call came in was diverted from his original target of Cam Spout/Esk Buttress and sent back up over Little Narrowcove.  Before darkness fell he located the cragfast group at NY212083 from the opposite eastern bank, but not surprisingly was unable to access.  Radio communications back to base from this location were fraught but it was ascertained they were perched on the side of Straight Gill, which drops from the summit of Lingmell into Piers Gill at the dog-leg.  The fallen casualty was almost directly beneath, and was standing plus responding to shouts.  Then another call came in from the Police about a missing group, but it transpired this one was for a different incident and would have to be parked.

Four MRT with limited crag gear plus first aid were on scene above by 19:00 just as it got fully dark. The cragfast group had no lights and this, together with the reflected noise of the waterfalls and clag bouncing back our lights, didn’t make homing in exactly on complex terrain easy.  Two MRT abseiled  directly down Straight Gill and found the cragfast group in a very exposed location, which could not really be dignified by the term ‘ledge’, off to one side at 70m down.  The youths were roped individually a few metres to a safer location and a bivi-tent pending evacuation.   The second 2 MRT pair abseiled in from higher up Piers Gill, and set up a tensioned rope-traverse to start evacuation that way, aided soon after by further ropes brought by a mixed Cockermouth/Wasdale backup group.

Meanwhile the first aider continued abseiling the remaining 50m down Straight Gill to the fallen casualty.  Apart from being well rattled (both metaphorical and actual) he was essentially uninjured which was almost unbelievable.  He described a sliding fall with short flights, but sufficient low energy hits on the way down to slow him, so that no one impact caused major damage.  He’d eventually landed on his back but the rucksack had cushioned him, and crucially there was no significant head or neck injury.  He was cold from immersion in the stream, and well bruised, but only 400mg of his personal Ibuprofen and munching his left over food was appropriate.  Given the time it would have taken to execute a technical extrication and reach definitive care all were relieved. 

The way out for the casualty was directly up, as re-ascent of Straight Gill wasn’t straightforward and there is no easy route.  The remainder of the combined backup group set up a haul rope and pulled the casualty ~100m up the western side wall with the assistance of a lowered barrow-boy, to a confirmatory check over by an A&E consultant.  The first aider followed later after having sheltered out of line of the consequent rockfalls which incidentally trashed his rope.

The location demanded widely different evacuation routes: the cragfast group were assisted back up the stream bed waterfalls then walked to Lingmell col and down to the valley past Hollowstones to Brackenclose, whereas the casualty was supported directly down to Lingmell Beck and thence to Burnthwaite.  All were reunited at the Wasdale Head Hotel nearing midnight where yet again we were provided with rehydration therapy and allowed to drip on the carpet in the residents bar. 

Learning points? There were loads, as always.  But, as an example of combined team operations against a complex and rapidly developing situation it was remarkably successful.  We believe the path of the Corridor Route will be improved soon where it crosses Piers Gill, so as to reduce navigational errors here.

David Willey - Deputy Leader, WMRT  



Page created 30 October 2007