Couple in 14-hour ordeal on fells

Date: Friday 24th February 2017

A PLASTIC bivvi bag is thought to have saved the lives of a couple who spent 14 hours on the fells in extreme weather.

Members of seven mountain rescue teams were involved in a major search, along with dogs and handlers, in horrendous weather before the couple were found in Eskdale by a member of the Duddon and Furness rescue team.

The search was based in Keswick and involved more than 70 rescuers, many of whom were airlifted by helicopter to higher ground.

The alarm was raised on Tuesday when a call was received from a local hotel to say the couple had not returned from a walk up Scafell Pike.

They had left no details of their route, but said they intended parking their car at Seathwaite, Borrowdale.

Keswick mountain rescue team members, who were already involved in a search, contacted the Wasdale team. In the meantime, the rain got worse and visibility was at a minimum. Further information trickled in about the missing walkers, who were said to be inexperienced and not particularly well equipped for bad weather.

The Keswick and Wasdale teams, assisted by Duddon and Furness rescuers, continued the search, covering as much ground as they could before the driving wind and rain made it almost impossible for them to stay upright, and a decision was taken to stand down until the following morning.

At 8am on Wednesday, seven teams and four dogs set off in better weather and the Coastguard helicopter lifted some searchers to higher ground.

After three hours the couple were found cold, exhausted and “stunned by the ferocity of the weather,” said a Keswick team spokesman.

He said: “They had spent 14 hours in a plastic bivvi bag waiting for daylight and a break in the weather before trying to walk out. Their bivvi bag may well have saved their lives.”

The helicopter flew from Keswick to pick them up and take them to the Keswick rescuers’ base, where they were given hot food and drinks to warm them up before transport was arranged to take them back to their hotel.

The rescuers then had to walk back to various collection points and transport was co-ordinated to bring several of them back to Keswick where they were given soup and sandwiches by Women’s Institute members, who have fed and watered the rescuers during some of their biggest jobs.

The Keswick team spokesman praised the role of Rescue 999 from Prestwick, Scotland, which flew in “very testing” conditions, and also the neighbouring teams from Penrith, Cockermouth, Wasdale, Duddon and Furness, Kirkby Stephen and Langdale Ambleside, which joined the operation — more than 11 hours was spent searching the central fells.