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Time to fine the mobile phone mountain morons?

Friday 20 April 2007

Our countryside and rural affairs commentator John Sheard, who witnessed his first mountainside emergency at the age of ten, ponders on the idiots who call out mountain rescue teams on their mobiles phones when all they need is a map and some boots...

I WAS, I think, about ten years old when I witnessed the one and only mountainside rescue I have ever been marginally involved in but I can still remember vividly the flood of blood which swamped my handkerchief and then left me as bloodstained as the victim.

It was on a Sunday school outing to Dovedale in Derbyshire and I had set out with a rival to race him down Thorpe Cloud, one of the prettier hills in the Peak District, which was a stupid thing to do in the first place and one which, some days later, got our Sunday school teacher into a lot of bother.

mountain menace
Mountainside menace?

Because my mum was a real old fuss-pot, she had equipped me with sturdy studded boots. My rival (who was also trying to catch the eye of Vera Chambers, the prettiest girl in church) was wearing just flimsy gym shoes we called pumps, with virtually no tread on the soles and a size too big because they were hand-me-downs from an older brother (this was at the height of post-war austerity and everything was in short supply).

I set off slowly in my cumbersome boots and he went off like a sprinter from the blocks - and that was his undoing: Thorpe Cloud is a pretty steep hill and soon he was going too fast and beginning to scream. Suddenly, he flipped over and was literally cart-wheeling until he ran into as rocky outcrop with a sickening thud.

By the time I got to him, his head was literally covered in blood. I tried by best with my hankie, but that was quickly soaked. Fortunately, some adult climbers had seen the accident and came to the rescue. They carried him down and someone ran to a nearby hotel to call an ambulance. As luck would have it, he has suffered one of the head wounds to his forehead that bled profusely but very little serious damage had been done.

Shortly afterwards, I joined the boy scouts and was taught how to read a map, carry and use a compass, wear proper boots and outdoor clothing and in another 20 years of semi-serious fell walking never saw, or was part of, another mountainside accident.

All this brings me to a report that was issued this week by the Lake District Mountain Rescue Association which told of the huge strains imposed on their wonderful volunteers by ill-equipped idiots who venture into the mountains without proper boots or clothes, unable to read a map (if, of course, the have a map!) but depending on their mobile phones to get them out of trouble.

idiots with mobile phones and nowt else should be convicted of an offence like going onto the mountain/into the pothole without due care and attention

Now the people who carry out mountain and pothole rescues face huge personal dangers to help others - voluntarily and for nowt. I know of two of these gallant guys who have died in the Yorkshire Dales, one of them a former Editor of the Craven Herald.

And the last thing they need is townie idiots calling them up because, as reported by the Lakes rescue people, one man thought to be dead was sleeping off a hangover and a couple who needed urgent assistance because their tent was leaking!

Sometimes the cost of these rescues is huge: as charities, the rescue groups have to raise large sums to cover the cost of expensive equipment like Land Rovers. The emergency services like police and ambulance are regularly involved, often for hours on end, using up not only over-stretched manpower but incredibly expensive kit like helicopters.

And, as often as not, all because some cretin has gone onto the fells totally unprepared.

I am not saying that well-equipped climbers and potholers should not have emergency back-up: accidents can happen to the best trained and best equipped people. But the idiots with mobile phones and nowt else should be convicted of an offence like going onto the mountain/into the pothole without due care and attention - and made to pay for the cost of their rescue.

Your views:

  • In response to this article which has been brought to our attention.
    As an organistion we are responsible for Mountain & Cave Rescue in parts of Yorkshire, Cumbria & Lancashire, including much of the area Daelnet covers.

    While we are always keen that anyone undertaking outdoor activities should develop their training, experience and equipment, and are able to manage themselves safely in those circumstances; we would not wish to discourage anyone from asking for help should the need arise.

    Standard advice for help in an emergency is:

    • Call 999 and ask for the Police force for the area you are within.
    • Ask specifically for a Mountain or Cave Rescue teams assistance.
    • Provide your contact number and remain where that number can be called back.

    S Finch - Duty Controller - The Cave Rescue Organisation

  • I'm sure John Sheard's intention in this article is to be deliberately antagonistic to those who live in towns and use mobile phones.

    It is unfortunately a theme that runs through much of his writing. There is however no equivalence between living in a town, having a mobile phone (even in the country) and being an idiot who destroys the countryside and wastes the time of the Mountain Rescue Service.

    Anyone who walks regularly in the countryside will know that reception is far from guaranteed and it would be foolish to rely on the phone as the only safety device. The phone is however a potential lifesaver for real emergencies where time may be of the essence and there are many instances of lives being saved in this way.

    I agree the phone is not a substitute for proper equipment, but it is a reasonable and modern addition to it when responsibly used.

    Tim Bloomer - Halifax, West Yorkshire

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