Police have urged visitors to stay away from the Lake District after a mountain rescuer fell 150 metres and sustained “life-changing injuries” while coming to the aid of two hikers.
Rescuers were called to help two men who had travelled more than 100 miles in contravention of coronavirus regulations to camp overnight on a 780-metre (2,500ft) fell in near-freezing conditions. The hikers, who were from the Leicester area and the Liverpool area, requested help after one of them experienced chest pains on Saturday morning.
Patterdale Mountain Rescue said an experienced member of its team slipped and fell 150 metres (490 feet), sustaining spinal injuries and facial fractures while making his way to the pair. The 60-year-old man, who has not been named, was airlifted to the Royal Preston hospital where he remained in a serious but stable condition on Monday.
Mike Blakey, the operational lead for the Lake District’s mountain rescue teams, said: “I cannot stress enough the message to stay at home during lockdown. This rescue, and the subsequent life-changing injuries incurred by our team member, were avoidable.”
The rescue took place in “atrocious” conditions, Blakey said, with 18 volunteers battling a severe wind chill to get to the hikers, who were camping on the Red Screes fell between the villages of Patterdale and Ambleside.
Andrew Slattery, assistant chief constable of Cumbria constabulary, said the two hikers were issued with £200 fines “which is the only legal penalty available in these circumstances”, despite them making round trips of nearly 600 miles (965km) during a national lockdown.
He said: “We would appeal to everyone to stay at home as much as possible, exercise locally, and stay well within the limits of their own experience and equipment when exercising in the outdoors.
“It is vital that anybody venturing on to the fells in winter takes note of the weather forecasts and mountain conditions before setting off. Now is not a time to be taking unnecessary risks as our ambulance service and hospitals are still under extreme pressure from high numbers of Covid patients.”
Police and mountain rescuers have repeatedly urged visitors to stay away from the Lake District after the first lockdown resulted in huge numbers of people being drawn to its picturesque hills last year.