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‘Remarkably lucky’ walker airlifted to hospital after ordeal on Scafell Pike in full winter conditions

This week saw a huge Mountain Rescue operation to find a walker missing on the fells of the Lake District in severe winter weather.

Richard Cockerham, a 28-year-old walker from Leeds, went missing late on Sunday having failed to check in after heading up Scafell Pike in severe weather.

Cumbria Police called Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team at 7.00pm on the evening of Sunday 14 January to begin the search. Initially, three teams (Wasdale, Keswick and Furness MRTs) were mobilised to search the normal routes up Scafell Pike, but the search was called off in the early hours of Monday morning with worsening weather conditions. Team members described the conditions as “the worst they’d seen on Scafell Pike in a long time”, and added that temperatures were as low as -4˚C with severe wind chill, combined with sleet and slow in gale-force winds.

At first light on Monday 15 January the search resumed, now involving a total of five Mountain Rescue teams (Wasdale, Kendal, Coniston, Penrith and Cockermouth), two search dogs, and a Coastguard rescue helicopter from Prestwick. Over 50 personnel spent Monday searching known problem areas on Scafell Pike, but they were unable to find the walker despite slightly better conditions on the mountain.

Image © Wasdale MRT

The search continued on Tuesday 16 January with seven teams, twelve search dogs and the Coastguard helicopter from Caernarfon – a total of around 70 to 80 rescuers.

“There were dogs from the Lakes and as far away as Oldham from Search and Rescue Dogs Association England,” a Wasdale MRT spokesperson said.

“Around 10.00 on Tuesday 16 January shouts for help were heard in the Silverybield Crag area in Upper Eskdale,” said Wasdale MRT. “The missing walker was found stuck in boggy ground. He’d been moving throughout much of the time and had injured his wrists the previous evening. He was airlifted to hospital by the coastguard helicopter from Caernarfon.

“A good outcome,” the spokesperson added.

The missing walker was described as alert but very cold, and it was suspected his wrists were broken. He was found by a Wadale team member along with search dog handlers at Silverybield Crag, 3km south of Scafell Pike in upper Eskdale. His injuries were sustained due to a fall on his third day on the hill.

Conditions were described as atrocious © Wasdale MRT

“It goes very much without saying that he was remarkably lucky to have survived the 48 hours on the mountain in the subzero temperatures,” Wasdale MRT said.

“He kept himself warm, avoiding hypothermia by continuing to move. Following an initial medical assessment by the search team, he was airlifted to Furness General Hospital, in Barrow by the Coastguard helicopter.”

All twelve Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue teams were involved in this successful operation, either directly in the searches or providing backup.

Replying to a post on Wasdale MRT’s Facebook page, Jenny West, sister of the missing walker, commented: “Thank you all for finding my brother. We are grateful for everyone who has been involved. This includes everyone who was out searching and everyone who has shared, commented on social media and informed the police with any info they had.

“Everyone has been amazing and I’m sure once Richard has recovered he will also show his appreciation. Thank you everyone.”

Wasdale MRT concluded by adding: “The team passes their best wishes to Richard for a speedy recovery and extend their thanks for the support provided by the neighbouring teams along with the help from the two Coastguard SAR helicopter stations and crews.”

All images © Wasdale MRT, used with kind permission