Hoping for a Sight of Burnmoor Tarn

The following letter was written by a group of walkers from the south of England.  They became lost in the mist on the north-western flanks of Scafell.  Unsure of their position they decided it was best to stay put and call the team - a very wet day in early October.

Thank you for your letter  Tony

                                    Richard Warren - Secretary WMRT

22  October  2000


My name is Tony and I am one of four who were rescued from Scafell on Saturday 7th October 2000, incident number 0048. 

We set out at 0900 hrs from Wasdale Head in drizzle and low cloud for a circular walk via Styhead and along the corridor route to the summit of Scafell Pike.  This went well and after lunch at approx. 1400 hrs we started our second leg towards Scafell via Foxes Tarn.  Despite our disappointment that
the national trust built stone staircase, as featured in our guide book, had disappeared, we made an exhausting scramble up to the summit of Scafell.  At this point we faced an unpleasant cold wind and driving rain coming from the west which was combined with poor visibility.  The team leaders checked
and double checked our position and it was decided to alter our proposed and more difficult route down for the easier route to Burnmoor Tarn and then back to Wasdale Head.

After hurriedly adding another layer of clothing we began our descent which began as an obvious path but after a while seemed to vanish.  We couldn't find any more cairns amongst the boulder strewn landscape.  We zig-zagged and back-tracked trying to pick up the path again but with the poor visibility we were unable to see any landmarks below that could confirm our position. 

We walked in several directions hoping for a glimpse of Burnmoor Tarn.  The now grassy terrain was very boggy under foot and we were becoming cold, wet and tired. We could see a fast flowing stream which we thought may flow into the tarn, so we began to follow it down but after a while became concerned that it might be leading elsewhere.  We were also aware  that if we went into a valley we may loose our mobile phone signal should we need help.  After further discussions and countless examinations of the map we convinced ourselves that we should change direction again but as dusk began to fall we realised that we were lost and would not get off the mountain before dark.  The landscape was exposed with nowhere visible to shelter.

We had food and water but due to the conditions didn't think we were particularly well equipped to spend the night on the mountain. It was agreed that we should call for assistance and at 1840 hrs we reluctantly dialed 999.

We gave as much information as possible including a position from our GPS (Global Positioning Satellite navigational aid) which had not been working properly all day.  It was suggested by the mountain rescue that we should head north which we did until our progress was halted by a large crag.  With only one torch we did not feel happy to move about in what had now become total darkness, so we called 999 again to inform them of our decision.  We found the largest stone we could for shelter but this was little help against the wind  and driving  rain.  During our wait it was comforting to get a call on the mobile confirming that the rescue was underway. Strangely at this point the wind and rain stopped as quickly as it had begun and the cloud cleared to reveal the lights of the Wasdale Inn ahead and the dark shape of Wastwater to our left.
So near yet so far.......

It was about 2230 hrs when we heard the sound of the search parties whistle and eagerly returned their call.  We were all able to walk off and an hour or so later were experiencing the delights of hot soup in the Wasdale Head Inn with the rescue team.  It turned out that we had been at Green Howe above Rakeshead Crag.

We should like to thank all the members of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team for the most professional and friendly way in which they brought us down.


The four walkers on the summit of Scafell Pike - earlier that day and before the ascent of Scafell via Foxes tarn


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Page updated 22nd October  2000 - created 17th October 2000 by....... webcat.co.uk