"You have got to help me!"


The following sequence of events was written by two of the three experienced walkers who were at the right place at the right time and who did the right thing.  Their alertness, level headedness and selfless care for a fellow walker undoubtedly saved his life.   Friday 23rd February 2001 will remain a memorable day for them all.  

Thank you for your help

 

We will also remember it as the day we carried the casualty up the mountain rather than down.   

                                    Richard Warren - Member WMRT

26 February  2001

Updated 7 March 2001


   

 

LIFE SAVING MOUNTAIN RESCUE  -  23 February 2001

 

9.30 hrs.     Drs Audrey Brown and Alan Heaton (Open University Tutors) set off from Wasdale Head to climb Scafell Pike - the highest mountain in England at 978m (3,210 feet). Although snow showers were forecast, at this time there was a clear sky and sunshine.

 

11.25 hrs.   Reach Mickledore ridge between Scafell and Scafell Pike, and start final part of ascent, passing mountain rescue kit box - unaware of the important part which it would shortly have to play.

 

11.30 hrs.   Hear cries of "You have got to help me" behind us. Retrace steps but cannot see the person shouting, who indicates that he has fallen and is seriously injured with broken bones. Audrey phones police on her mobile phone, while Alan descends scree slope and locates casualty below the cliffs of Broad Stand - notes that they are covered in ice in many places.

 

11.40 hrs.   Shout to Audrey that the injured person cannot move because of the pain, is bleeding and thinks he has broken his right arm and leg. She phones this through to the police. The nearby mountain rescue box is a valuable reference point to guide the rescue team to our location.

Alan covers the injured walker with his fleece and leggings to keep him warm - temperature below freezing. Audrey finds large fleecy sleeping bag and plastic tent in rescue kit box and brings them down to cover him with. Then returns to ridge to await return call from police. The injured walker indicates that he had been trying to climb down the cliffs when he slipped on the ice and fell about onto the rocks below and then on to the scree slope, about 60m in all. Estimated that we found him about 10 minutes after he fell. Already quite cold and his trousers are ripped.

 

12.00 hrs    Members of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team are bleeped at work - one in a meeting at Sellafield is at the foot of the mountain in 40 minutes, despite having to drive 20 miles along narrow country lanes!

 

12.00 to 13.40 hrs.   Challenge to keep the casualty warm and awake. Concerned that we cannot get anything under him because he can't move and we do not want to disturb him because of his injuries. Hence he is laid on cold rock and scree. Give him hot tea and he manages to eat a Mars bar.

Around 12.30 another walker, Peter Corrigan, arrives and has some ibuprofen. Give the casualty two. Keep talking to him and constantly check that he is still awake. Note also that his right sock is soaked in blood. Marvel at how well he is coping with the pain. He thanks us several times for saving his life. Several short snow flurries during this time.

 

13.40 hrs.   First member of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team arrives and advises other members of the situation on his radio.

 

13.50 hrs.   First doctor arrives and administers diamorphine to ease pain. He is followed by more team members including another two doctors. They give him oxygen and are very concerned to treat his leg and ankle injuries quickly.  The ankle is badly broken and his leg has a compound fracture. Inflatable splints are fitted and he is lifted into a vacuum mattress.  A heart rate monitor is unpacked and attached to him.

 

14.15 hrs.   Search and rescue helicopter lands on a relatively flat area higher up the mountain. Cannot pick up casualty directly because of proximity of cliffs and the wind.

Audrey and a team member fetch the two halves which will form the metal stretcher, from the mountain rescue box.

14.30 hrs.   Rescue team has grown to fourteen, and ten of these carry the stretcher up the steep and slippery scree slope. Two more are stationed above belaying ropes which are tied to the stretcher. It is 1,000m distance and 200m of ascent to the waiting helicopter.

 

15.00 hrs.   The stretcher is placed on the helicopter and the injured walker is flown to a nearby hospital in Whitehaven.

 

Since we had been so pre-occupied with the situation the enormity of it only sank in when one of the rescue team reminded us that we had saved his life. If we had not found him so quickly he would have undoubtedly developed hypothermia and perished.

 

The Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team are all volunteers and rely on donations and sponsorship to purchase their vital equipment. We were incredibly impressed by their rapid response and tremendous efficiency and professionalism in carrying out the rescue.

 

Despite his appalling injuries - broken arm, ankle and compound fracture of the leg - he was very fortunate, on several counts, to escape with his life. He could easily have been killed in the fall or rendered unconscious and unable to attract attention; he was walking alone and was lucky that we heard his cries; we would have had great difficulty in preventing the onset of hypothermia if the equipment in the mountain rescue box had not been so readily available; finally Audrey's mobile phone - if she had not been able to contact the police one of us would have had to descend to the valley to summon help, adding at least a further two hours before the rescue.

 

Postscript

Audrey, Alan, Peter and his dog Ben completed the ascent of Scafell Pike and just made it back to their cars as dusk fell.

 

Written by Drs Audrey Brown and Alan Heaton (Open University Tutors), and reproduced here with their kind permission - some actual photographs of the rescue were taken by Peter Corrigan and have been reproduced below with the kind permission of Peter.  The casualty, who is still recovering slowly in Hospital has seen the story and the photographs and has agreed for them to be reproduced so that it will increase awareness and prevent further accidents. 

Broad Stand taken by Peter Corrigan on the day of the accident
The Sea King rescue helicopter arrives from RAF Boulmer (north east coast and 40 minutes flying time away).

Due to the high winds they are unable to come any closer to the accident site therefore the team has to carry the casualty up the mountain. This photo was taken from just above the accident site looking across the stretcher box at Mickledore

The casualty is being given first aid whilst the stretcher is being prepared to evacuate him to the waitng helicopter
The difficult carry back up to Mickledore ridge
Nearing the helicopter at around 3,000 feet, the only safe place to land on the summit plateau
The casualty is now within a short 5 minute flight to the West Cumberland Hospital where a full casualty care is waiting.

For additional information on Broad Stand accident black spot see ........

the same rescue by one of our team members 

plus   another true rescue story 17 April 00       

and       first ascent by Coleridge 1802

 

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Page created 26th February 2001 by....... wasdalemrt