Helen and I packed up our van and headed to the Lakes last Thursday, the intention being to get some serious fell miles in our legs, but also to recce some of the ground for my forthcoming JNC (Joss Naylor Challenge). We overnighted at Kirkstone Pass, then next morning set out with mate Emma, the intention to do JNC leg 2 as far as Fairfield under exam conditions. The weather was pretty dreadful, but I had no problem in hitting my projected split times and think that I should be able to reproduce that on the day. From Fairfield we went over Cofa Pike to St Sunday's Crag, bagged nearby Gavel Pike (a Birkett), then pushed on to Birks. Rather than dropping down to Patterdale, we cut across to Trough Head and then on to Arnison Crag for a new Wainwright, the sun was out by now so we sat blinking in the unaccustomed warmth and had butties on the summit. From there, it was down to Deepdale and the long slog up Hartsop Above How, then cut the corner off before Hart Crag and back to Dove Crag. We saw Emma off at the top of Red Screes and decided to go out to Middle Dodd for another Wainwright, but then very foolishly dropped down to Kirkstone from there. Trust me on this, don't try it, should you be daft enough to be in the vicinity - it's as steep as hell and you stand a good chance of going down the *very* fast way.
We stayed another night at Kirkstone, taking the opportunity to visit the pub and indulge in some people-watching. It was like a scene out of the fecking Adams Family, some seriously weird types congregate in there! The beer was none the worse for it mind you ...
Next morning started off a bit cloudy, but soon brightened up and so we drove down to a very busy Patterdale and Glenridding, somewhat amazingly we got a prime parking spot right in front of the George Starkey Hut. From there we did a cracking tour of the fells thereabouts, heading up to Boredale Hause on the Tour de Helvellyn route, then Place Fell (a Wainwright) followed by The Knight, High Dodd and Sleet Fell (all Birketts). It's good running thereabouts and we loved it, so pushed on to Hallin Fell then back to St Peter's Church in Martindale before climbing up Steel Knotts and the weirdly titled Pikeawassa. We finished off the tour by dropping down and up the other side of the valley to Beda Fell, then back to Boredale Hause and down to our van. An excellent day out.
The plan for the next day was to do JNC L4, so we overnighted in Borrowdale, the intention being to trek up to Styhead from Seathwaite. The weather was abysmal next morning, so that plan got quickly shelved but we decided to go over to Wasdale just for the hell of it. It rained all the way and we were soaked and a bit dispirited, so went into the Wasdale Head Inn for a decent coffee and dry-out. The rain got worse if anything, so eventually we had to get on with it and head back up Styhead Pass .... it seemed to alleviate a little, so to make the best out of a bad job we decided to go up to the summit of Great Gable in order to test my timing for that particular part of L4. As we approached the summit, we were met by some guys who thought we were Mountain Rescue and it turned out we had walked into a full-blown fell emergency. A fell walker had lost consciousness on the summit plateau and stopped breathing, he was located about 75 metres to the East of the summit on very rocky ground, it was a proper nightmare scenario. People were huddled into emergency bivvies trying to stay warm in the cloud and rain, while this poor guy was stripped to the waist and his fellow fellwalkers administered CPR. It was awful to see, they'd been doing CPR for over 45 minutes in the classic 30/2 model and the air exited his lungs in a wet, rasping gasp that didn't sound at all good. What a place to have an emergency, Great Gable is one of the most inaccessible mountain tops in England and it was terrible conditions to boot. I feared the worst already, so seeing as there wasn't much we could do other than offering kit and helping with CPR, we elected to go and head down the mountain and guide MRT to them, my thinking being that I can probably get down a lot faster than anyone there present. We set off down the tourist path, but then heard a rescue helo come in and land at Styhead (I assumed), so we cut across the mountain until I found the Borrowdale Race descent, on to Windy Gap and then made a very fast descent of Aaron Slack until I got to the helo. I stood at a safe distance and gave the "need assistance" signal and a crewman beckoned me in, then I shoved a pair of headphones on and gave them the full story and position of the casualty. Turns out the helo was in touch with the Wasdale MRT team leader, but they hadn't got comms with the group on the summit. The paramedic I spoke to was very concerned when he heard how long CPR had been going on for and I think like me, he feared the worst.
I can't say what happened for sure after than. The helo couldn't go to the summit in those conditions, it would have been suicide and shortly after I left them they lifted off and headed back down the valley. I suspect they might had picked up some MRT guys and took them as far up as it was possible to go, maybe to Beck Head? I dunno. Anyhow, we made our way back down to Seathwaite in a chastened kind of way, it was a pretty terrible thing to be involved in. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, I go out into the hills nearly every weekend and this sort of thing was bound to happen at some point ... the funny thing is that we recently did an FRA Outdoor First Aid and Emergency course and it was just this sort of thing that we dreaded, a cold and wet mountain is about the worst possible place to have a medical emergency and the only thing you can do is try and keep the casualty alive until someone arrives who really knows what they're doing.
We heard next day that the poor guy had died, I think we knew it was the most likely outcome but you like to maintain hope don't you? I can't deny this hasn't impacted me, he was younger than me and well, just too young to die. Something like this really puts you in touch with your own mortality and I am reflecting on the importance of living your life to the full.
The beautiful mountains that so captivate me can be cruel and savage mistresses sometimes.
Some Stuff About Me ......
- Martyn Price
- I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire with my wonderful wife and soul-mate Helen. I have two incredible sons - Evan and Matthew - who are occasionally show up at home, usually when they're hungry or need money. The three of them are the best thing that ever happened to me and I love them all. I spent over 24 years in the Royal Navy, but since I packed it all in and got a proper job my life has gone from strength to strength and I've never looked back. I am a die-hard soul music fan and this remains a serious passion, but in recent years my life has been dedicated to running on the fells and trails of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ...