It was only a simple scramble.....

The following is a true story about a walker  who desperately needed the help of the Wasdale Team in November 1998.   It accurately describes the event of that day and was written by Mike Greene, our Team Doctor on the rescue.  

                                    Richard Warren - Secretary WMRT, 12 April 2000     

Team Work  

A successful mountain rescue is the result of  many people working together.  On  15 July 1998 a fell walker from Manchester found himself the reluctant center of attention  in one of Wasdale’s more difficult rescues. 

A scramble along Lord’s Rake path on Scafell had ended in near disaster when he fell down Red Ghyll and stopped on the edge of a steep waterfall.  The following story is a chronological account of events as they unfolded on that day.  The record illustrates the wide variety of people involved in a mountain rescue. 

·      Andrew falls on Lord’s Rake path into a  gully sustaining serious head and limb injuries. 

·      The alarm is raised by mobile telephone from the hillside.  This saves much valuable time.  Other mountaineers give basic first aid. 

·      The police control room pass the details of the accident to the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team Leader who immediately calls the team by the pager system and requests RAF helicopter back up. 

·      A Wasdale Mountain Rescue team member who is out fell running reaches the casualty site to assist those present. 

·      Team members ( 22 in all with 1 base operator) attend for the rescue. 

·      The advanced party reach Wasdale Head. 

·      An RAF helicopter from RAF Boulmer reaches Scafell but due to bad weather cannot reach the location of the casualty . It  returns to the valley and collects the advanced party including Team Leader and doctors from valley.  The helicopter cannot land and they jump out of the aircraft  ( was it really only 10 feet !). 

·      Bystanders have helpfully marked the way through the mist to the accident location which it is now clear is in a steep and inhospitable gully. 

·      The backup party  are informed of the difficult location and the need to prepare equipment for a complex crag rescue.  The helicopter continues to ferry vital equipment and personnel as near the crag as possible despite ever deteriorating  viability. 

·      A wet and rough scramble leads to the site at the top of a waterfall where the seriously injured walker is lying semiconscious in a stream bed in a precarious situation.

·      Team members and doctors assess and start to treat the casualty's injuries. 

·      Other vulnerable party members are led to a place of greater safety.  A crag party working on difficult ground and with poor quality rock work as quickly as possible to establish multiple belays (anchors in the rock face) to protect those working below and for the stretcher lower which must follow. 

·      More team members arrive with 200 m ropes and the stretcher.  These are heavy loads to have on your back as you climb the near vertical bog of Scafell Shamrock.  

·      The serious nature of the casualty's injuries is apparent .  A serious head injury with a rapidly deteriorating condition, a dislocated elbow, a  chest injury and fracture of the knee. 

·      It is raining and visibility has closed in to a  hundred meters.  Time is critical and the casualty must reach hospital as soon as possible  but safety on the mountain is essential. 

·      The stretcher is lowered to the foot of the crag and carried through the mist to the waiting helicopter.   


·      There are almost no land marks for the pilot.  One man hangs out of the door watching the ground as the helicopter inches its way down the side of the mountain.  We have to stop and hover again a few feet from the ground because all visibility is lost.  Suddenly we are out of the cloud, the Lake is in site and we turn and head for West Cumberland Hospital. 

·      By pre-arrangement via the team’s base operator the Trauma Team of experienced doctors and nurses is assembled in the resuscitation room to assess and continue  the casualty's medical care.  He is immediately placed on a life support machine and an emergency brain scan shows a life threatening blood clot. 

·      Meanwhile back on the hillside team members remove the ropes and equipment from the crag, help other party members to the safety of the valley and walk down the mountain in the rain. 

·      Following consultation with the Newcastle Neurosugical Unit an emergency operation is undertaken in Whitehaven to relive the pressure on the brain.  This  vital surgery is rarely  undertaken in a District General Hospitals but in some circumstances it is required to save life. 

·      Meanwhile the casualty's family and friends wait anxiously aware of the gravity of the situation while hospital staff attempt to provide some support. 

·      Rescue team members clean equipment and prepare the rescue base for the next call out.  They return home to long suffering family, friends and employers who “tolerate” their disappearance to call outs. 

·      The casualty is transferred by road Ambulance to Newcastle General Hospital.  He requires further surgery  and treatment in Intensive Care  followed by rehabilitation.

·      Andrew makes a full recovery and returns to work in November 1998. 

·      Our casualty has now returned to his previous employment and is gradually recovering from his ordeal on the northern slopes of Scafell.  

       It’s because many people and organisations were able to work together with co-operation that this story has a  happy ending.


           By Mike Greene, Team Doctor,  with the kind permission of the injured walker.