Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Mountain incidents, Police involvement in location from mobile signals.

Following the last blog on this subject published on 11th January 2013, it seems to have been well received and I am pleased on a number of favourable comments from mountain rescue teams. Having been retired as a communications centre inspector or F.I.M.(Force incident manager) in Cumbria for nine months and beginning to use social websites for this time, it became apparent there was a great lack of knowledge on the process of a rescue, especially police involvement. A greater understanding of this process can only increase mountain safety and to that end here goes.
 I touched on the initial call being directed to the police not the mountain rescue team in :- http://scafellhike.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/police-involvement-in-moutain-rescues.html?showComment=1358088676679#!/2013/01/police-involvement-in-moutain-rescues.html If you are new to this blog then this is a supplement to the one above so read that first.
 All telephone calls to the police are recorded, they need to be for evidence purposes, but this has the benefit for rescues in that if the operator doesn't understand location they can be played back to someone who does, helping to identify the location, which is paramount. I've said it in the last blog and I will repeat that location is everything. Let us look at when a location is not known, i.e.
a) the person is lost
b) or no contact has been made following them ringing a family member
c) They give a location for a rescue and on attendance they are not there
d) a phone signal drops out and no recontact can or has been made.
There will be other reasons but you get the point by now.

Following my retirement excellent work has been done by Russ Hore of Ogwen Valley MROT(Mountain rescue team) on a system he has named as SARLOC (Search and Rescue Location). As I understand this it is a system where on smartphones through a text sent by the MRT the caller can then give permission through that text by return, for the phone to identify it's GPS location and on return the MRT can then know the location. For full reading and interpretation read:- http://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/assets/files/The%20Oracle/Communications/SARLOC.pdf Russ and his team should recieve plaudits for the work done here as it truly is a major step in safeguarding life through speedy and safer resolution of rescue incidents.

Moving back to police issues, as this text needs to be sent, this means that contrary to a common belief by the public, the initial call does not give the information in it's own right. I say here and now that in four years as a comms inspector I never had an incident where a map reference was ever given by a phone call. Map references are either given by the caller or worked out by the operator and/or MRT for the area on the description given by the caller. The map reference on a police log is of the mast which the call went to and this can be 20miles away, indeed further. SARLOC cannot be used every time, as it needs recontact by text and the person may by now be unconscious, or they rang 999 and as touched on the previous blog that may have been via a different network provider mast, the mobile may not be appropriate for SARLOC use, i.e. not a smartphone. Your best safeguard in any incident is an accurate description from you and the route you took and what you know you have passed, i.e. Mickledore MRT stretcher box.
 Where this contact cannot be made the MRT team will request of the police that their initial call be traced through the mobile company and there are five stages to this.
1) MRT contact the comms inspector to request a cellsite analysis be done
2) The comms inspector decides whether this falls into a category of 'immediate life at risk incident'(This is accessing personal information hence the immediate life at risk).
3) If he/she does so decide, then a SPOC(Single point of contact - for network providers)  is contacted, a specialist within the police.
4)The SPOC then contacts an on call superintendent.
5) If the Superintendent agrees only then can the call be made to the network provider.

This sounds long winded but it takes about 10minutes as a process to go through and it is not a police procedural issue but one enshrined in law for the correct protection of the public's privacy and there is nothing the police can do to shortcut it, nothing!, nor would I have ever wanted to. The important issue here is the phrase 'immediate life at risk incident'. Do not be embarrassed on contact and start saying I'm lost but I'm OK, warm with adequate clothing, food and a hot drink, when really you've rang because the night is setting in and you know you won't see it out with what you've got to wear and eat. It's an easy decision when someone is unconscious having fallen 30ft and suffering fractures when a signal is lost, the circumstances speak for themselves.
 Having covered the circumstances where phones can be accessed, don't think the police then have a map reference to find you off. Different network providers have different systems for giving a general area where the signal originated, or that was the case up to when I retired and having spoken to former colleagues recently I do not believe this to have changed. In four years the best result I ever had was two men, one injured with a fractured/dislocated shoulder heading to Wasdale via Mickledore, from Scafell Pike summit. I managed to speak to the caller who, when asked, had not passed the MRT stretcher box(they should have on this intended route off). Having entered this on the log, no further contact could be made with them while they waited patiently for MRT arrival. It was night and freezing and deemed to be immediate life at risk and after discussion with MRT a call to the SPOC was made, a Superintendents authority duly given, the SPOC contacted the network provider who stated the signal had came off a mast at Barrow in Furness. This couldn't happen if they were en route to Wasdale, it was on the other side of the fell. The MRT deployed to the south side and found them en route down to The Great Moss; they had made a navigational error of 180degrees. That is the best result I had and it is clearly NOT a map reference. The analysis is just another factor in a body of information that an enquiring mind with MRT experience, coupled with local knowledge, can make a judgement.
 The worst location incident was at Alston looking for a vulnerable missing person believed intent on self harm where the signal analysis was somewhere within a 12mile radius of the mast in Alston and that was it! This person was also found BUT that also is not a map reference. Both incidents were resolved by interpretation of the signal and use of commonsense. The first by suspecting they were in the wrong area given and the second by then hunting the local car parks and lanes for the car the person had used, thus narrowing the search area.
 I hope these incidents bring home the point that your initial mobile call does not give a map reference, so take time to describe where you are, where you set off from(and the time you did) and what features you know you have passed. Give a map reference, everyone should carry a GPS as these days their cost is minimal and I carry one purely to inform on location on an emergency call.

Finally a couple of points that I here re leaving information. People say 'You used to be able to leave a note on the dashboard saying where you have gone but with crime now I wouldn't'. Well, DO if you change your location at the last minute and can't inform anyone, but leave it in your glove compartment. Where a  person has been reported late back the police will check locations to find a car. If they are satisfied a life is at risk, i.e. the person should have been home 5hrs ago and their wife has expressed concern, then the police will force entry into that car for any clue as to where they are. A life is at risk here, a car window means nothing. A man was reported missing once who stayed in a cottage and hadn't contacted his family. The MRT couldn't turn out as you can't check the whole of the lake district. The door was forced at the premises he was stopping at and one map was missing. He was known to want to walk a specific fell on that map so then ARCC(Seaking) along with the local MRT turned out to search. He was found but unfortunately deceased, however the location was right.
 I hope this shows the benefit of leaving some information somewhere.

Enjoy your walking/climbing/biking and keep safe. Don't forget that MRT collection box in the pub.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Five Loweswater Wainwrights and an iconic pub.

Thursday 24th January saw three of us set out for a walk in the Loweswater range, to take in the fells of Burnbank, Blake, Gavel, Hen Comb and finally Melbreak. Well, I say finally as the last destination was to be The Kirkstyle Inn of course. The weather forecast was given as overcast though the journey down from Carlisle looked as if it would be better than this and when we set off from Maggie's Bridge (NY135210) the sky couldn't have looked more promising. The White fells were all around us, with a glorious blue sky backdrop as we headed along the Watergate Farm track which skirts Loweswater.

 
Loweswater looking north from Watergate Farm track.

 
Striding out for Holme Wood, Burnbank our first fell in the background.

Although this looks cold there was little wind and the temperature was reasonable throughout the day so it was actually a pleasant walk. We were soon to pass the farm and turn left once through the gate heading through Holme Wood. Our only real obstacle here was a blown down tree blocking the path, which had not been there on two previous walks this year.

 
Holme Wood track slanting through to Holme Beck.
 
We pressed on here, the chest exertions deepening but once through the wood there is a slight pause before the next uphill drive. Once over Holme Beck a track goes off to the left and we headed along this until we came to the fence that goes directly up. We donned the trail spikes to give some purchase in the slippery ground under the soft downy snow. This gave us a breather before the fence trail, a real Achilles stretcher. You can only get your head down and drive on here, the near top eventually comes as the incline perceptibly lessens. You can turn to take in the view of the Mosser range of Low Fell and Fellbarrow, the lake beneath and view toward Grasmoor. Here we went over the fence and followed the peaty path for Burnbank summit.

 
The hard climb over, walking to Burnbank summit.

 It is an unremarkable summit yet as with the Mosser range, you get clear views of the Solway Plain, Robin Rigg windfarm(60) in the Solway Firth and on clearer less hazy days, of Scotland and The Isle of Man. A turn to the left and it was now a drop then shallower climb in iced peat to the cairn that is Blake Fell and the highest point of the walk at 573m. The views all around are wonderful but these fells, with the exception of Melbreak are peat paths in nature and if you are looking for a crag type scramble these first four do not fit the bill. They may also not be the biggest Wainwrights, but you have had a walk by the time you get to the end of this route. A gem of this fell is to move slightly to the west and take in the view of Congra Moss and Knock Murton Fell.

 
A frozen Congra Moss and Knock Murton Fell.
 
Time now to push on for Gavel Fell and then change direction for Hen Comb. Gavel again is a rounded fell with little to remember it by other than the views of the Buttermere range. It is always educational to see the lakes and fells from different angles and a walk on these if for nothing else, gives you this. As we passed Gavel's summit we were thinking of when to take our food stop and decided on Hen Comb summit, or nearby. We dropped off and followed the fence line through Whiteoak Moss. This is normally boggy, but the iced conditions made it good to walk in; other times I've had boots full of peat water here. I suddenly saw the sun on the grass tufts, nothing in spring or summer, but the contrast of hay and snow in low sun just made them magically jump out of the landscape.

 
Whiteoak Moss, heading now for Hen Comb, Buttermere valley opening.
 
To follow this fence it finishes then abruptly, but just carry on directly up and you meet a path coming from Floutern Cop/ Great Borne direction and it lessens in incline to a gentle walk to the top. We took in the views here and as last time, headed to the saddle of Melbreak, though had our food & hot drink before we dropped off Hen Comb for the Mosedale Beck crossing.

 
Melbreak with Grasmoor behind, seen from Hen Comb.

 Once the food was in us we headed down and found the beck less of a challenge than our last outing where another colleague had ended up in the beck and not over it These are the challenges we take on, you can laugh about them months later, but they're not funny at the time. We pressed on for the saddle but it was here I was beginning to feel it in my legs; still the last real climb so it was a 'grit of the teeth' and a push for the top. Thankfully we made the saddle and the summit was to our far right. We knew this but it means we needed to then come back on ourselves. We took in the magnificent views of the Buttermere ranges from the summit though.

 
Looking back on Hen Comb from Melbreak's saddle.

 
Melbreak Summit, looking deep down Buttermere Valley, Fleetwith Pike in the far centre.

 
Left to right, Whiteside, Grasmoor and Whiteless Pike, taken from Melbreak.

Now the pub thankfully beckons and we retraced our steps and onto the more northern and 3m lower peak of Melbreak. Here once again the Solway Plain vistas opened but were overshadowed by the distant sight of The Kirkstyle Inn. We felt like the three wise men must have as Bethlehem came into view, as I'm sure there was a halo around the pub.

 
'Heaven' to the back right corner of the wood.

This had been an easy underfoot walk even in snow, but newcomers to it need to be aware here of a steep rocky and scree descent to Loweswater. In ice you get close to steep edges or can slip and keep sliding. Take time on this way down. If you drive down the Lorton Valley to do this walk, look at the right face of Melbreak, it is steep and that is where you will come down on this route, though there are lesser ways off..
 Soon we were on the valley floor and walking toward the hamlet of Loweswater with it's pub and church. You can't avoid the purgatory of having to walk past The Kirkstyle Inn in order to get back to the car. Somehow we resisted and made the car. A 5hr walk of 17kms with 1150m ascent in powdery snow. A short hop in the car and three pints of Cumbrian Legendary Ales Pacific Voyage (Fletcher Christian is an infamous son of Cumberland and you look toward his old farm near Cockermouth) one each; the beer is served in rare to see measured pint glasses, absolute nectar of the Gods. This was washed down with an every bit as good, pint of Loweswater Gold and off we headed home. A days exercise and social meeting complete, nothing better.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Snow, a cave, three Wainwrights & two Patterdale pubs.

17th January saw four of us set off toward Ullswater with an intent to walk but the route not yet defined. We travelled down the length of the lake and as two of the group had not been to Priests Hole, we settled on Cow Bridge car park as our commencement point for the walk. Priests Hole was an admirable goal, though The Kirkstone Pass Inn and The Brotherswater Inn were also high players in why we chose a route up to Dove Crag before turning left for Kirkstone via Red Screes.
 The weather looked reasonably clear without rain and perhaps some thin snow, the valley bottoms were clear yet one didn't need to look too high before the snow line started. We set off along Brotherswater, passing Hartsop Hall en route for the lower path of  Dovedale. In the snow this is tricky to keep to and the higher path following the wall line I had previously found much easier.

 
Passing Hartsop Hall, the view to High Hartsop Dodd.

 
Looking to Dove Crag with Priests Hole in view.


 We reached the bridge over Dovedale Beck and crossed here and after a little while the path steepened and there was a need within the group to alter the clothing layers. This becomes a steep fix the fells route to Houndshope Cove and whatever the speed you walk you will feel this in your legs. It is also a good route to take regular breathers and turn to admire the view of Patterdale from here.

 
Dove Crag and Priests Hole in cloud.

 
Looking back into Hartsop, from the Houndshope Cove ascent route.

We had donned our trail spikes here, for ice as well as snow covered the steps of this route. After a hard push up we reached the erratic stone that denotes the turn for Priests Hole.

 
Houndshope Cove erratic, looking back to the High Street range.
 
There is just something about this erratic stone, out of place in the landscape yet occupying it for many thousands of years. I always take the time to take in the view from here. We turned and the route to the cave was relatively uneventful bearing in mind the ice and snow. Having been up to it a number of times I am well versed in the with the track when covered in snow, though the ice axe was also 'at the ready'.
 
 
Priests Hole, looking across Hartsop above How.
 
No one was occupying this and we had a small break for a coffee and a sandwich here, before pressing on for Dove Crag. As we reached the ridge of the range the icy wind hit us with no protection from the fell, though thankfully the temperature was not too low to really freeze the bones. Our intention was to get to Little Hart Crag and then Red Screes before a decision on whether we had time to continue past Kirkstone Pass Inn for Caudale Moor.

 
Pressing on for Dove Crag.

 
Checking on the time, a decision to be made soon.
 
 At the Hause of Scandale Pass we came across a group of eight who had set off from Cow Bridge at much the same time as we had though they had taken a different route. It was here that one of the group recognised Holly 'The Beast' and I was pleasantly surprised to meet a person I had met on an earlier group walk on Skiddaw. These surprises help make a day memorable. Nice to see you there Ria. Part way up to Red Screes we polished off the rest of our bait, sheltering behind the wall.
 After Red Screes it was obvious that the snow was slowing our normal pace and one of our group had not been out for a couple of months. To have continued on after The Kirkstone Pass Inn would have been foolish, so the decision was made to head for the car after Kirkstone Pass.

 
Descending Red Screes, the pub just coming into heavenly view.
 
This steep descent was tricky in ice, though we made it down. The benefit of calling an end to the fell tops was that we could indulge in two pints here and not just the one, which we duly did.


A misted lens view of the first pint.
 
We still had the pass to descend and although I have never been on it I was aware of a permitted path on the north side of the road, still a suitable distance from the road itself to let the dog off the lead for the most part. This descent had the added benefit of taking us past The Kirk Stone, after which the pass takes it's name.
 
 
The Kirk Stone.
 
This was a steady descent, uneventful except for the views of the valley. We passed over a bridge and joined the Scandale Pass path at the valley bottom, passing through the ancient settlement marked on the ordnance survey map. We once again passed Hartsop Hall and were back at the car park of Cow Bridge.
 
 
View back up the valley from Cow Bridge car park.
 
Well, a good walk and after one further pint at Brotherswater Inn the day was complete a good socialising walk with friends, 17.5kms with 1100m ascent in six hours, a decent walk out in snowy conditions.



Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Buttermere valley walk, The scecret Valley and battle.

Saturday 12th January 2013 was a day for a leisurely walk in The Lakes, a family day with my wife and it was never going to be a high fell walk. At the point of climbing into the car with the sandwiches and dog now stowed, a final decision was made to head for Buttermere and a stroll around the lake. It's a decent 7.2km walk in stunning countryside and although the snow had receded to nothing and the day a little overcast and cold, I was rightly confident of the weather holding out so it should be a good easy fulfilling day. We parked on the Newlands Road above the church and walked down to the lake passing as always, The Bridge Hotel and The Fish Hotel.

 
The Bridge Hotel, Buttermere.
 
From here it's a path to the left after The Fish Hotel, tracking toward Buttermere itself, heading to Burtness Wood on the side of High Stile. I took the time here to divert to the lake shore as this gives the classic shot of Fleetwith Pike, view of many a photograph and painting, in the right weather this is an iconic image on a par with Ashness Bridge and Skiddaw.

 
Fleetwith Pike from the Lakeside path

 
Fleetwith Pike with Burtness wood on the right, Robinson to the left.
 
By this time The Beast( or Hollydog to my grandson) is loose and has already been in Buttermere Dubs at the bridge crossing. The joy of any walk is as much to see a thing you love having the time of it's life, but diving into a stream on a cold winters day doesn't float my boat.

 
'I'm a tad wet and couldn't find the stick''
 
The walk continues along the base of High Stile and the views across the lake are to the Robinson range and Dalegarth. There is an excellent steep ascent(Hassnesshow Beck) onto Robinson from Dalegarth that misses out Buttermere moss, a place to be avoided in the wettest season on record. Take my word for it, people always seem to go on this route for Robinson as it is the one from the car park, but you get two boots full of peat water.
 Looking back on a walk is every bit as interesting as the view forward and to turn here you get the full view of the Grasmoor range with Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor, Crag Hill and Rannerdale Knotts in view.

 
Looking back on Grasmoor
 
This range along with Buttermere valley really does have it's place in the history of England and from what I've managed to read was a sore in the side of the Normans, being the last place in What is called England to be captured by them. Earl(Norse Yarl, meaning Warrior King) Boethar (giving the area the name Boetharmere) had turned the valley into a fortress and following one massacre of the Normans in Newlands valley a later attempt was made from Cockermouth. The road into Buttermere ran over the shoulder between Hause Point and Rannerdale Knotts but this was hidden by Boethar and another 'road made up the Squat Beck valley. To anyone that knows this route it is perfect ambush country and the Normans were drawn in, cut off from behind and annihilated. King Stephen ceded the land to Scotland through his reign. From what I have read even phrases within our language come from this area. Ari Knudson even ventured as far as Alston and Brough (toward Scotch Corner on A1) and was a constant wound in the Normans side, hence the expression 'Fighting like old Harry'. We walk an area not really realising what we walk on or through but we walk through history.

 The path continues on to the end of the lake at the beginning of Scarth Gap Pass where we stopped and had our sandwiches (your 'bait' in Cumbria). You can take in the deep valley head here with Robinson, Dale Head, Fleetwith Pike, Haystacks and the High Stile range virtually closing you in on three sides and understand in a fertile valley, in the days of woods and bows, why this would be a perfect place of defence. We moved on toward Gatesgarth Farm and the Cockermouth mountain rescue cabin, passing over Peggy's Bridge at Warnscale Beck and an opportunity to look right out of the valley from the top of it's pasture.

 
Warnscale Beck and Buttermere.

 
Left to right, Fleetwith Pike, Green Crag and Haystacks.

 
Buttermere with Melbreak beyond.

To move to the road side of the Lake or Mere you now get the view of your previous track below High Stile. Looking to this fell, most take in the full ridge from Red Pike, but there is in my view the best, yet little walked route to the summit of High Stile passing to the right of Burtness Comb.

 
Left to right, High Crag, Burtness Comb and High Stile. (You can just make the peak of Red Crag to the far right)
 
I love trees and how they find an existence in difficult terrain. This one always captivates me as it grips the rock clawing deep for hold as much as for nutrients, to continue it's existence. I'll have to go up to it one day as I think it will be a Yew, though that will need closer checking. It makes my day to see something like this, making it go beyond just a lake or mountain walk.

 
Hassness and Crag Wood, tree clinging on

 
Same tree but looking back to Haystacks.
 
We are now three quarters way around the walk and after a a short while we will come across the tunnel section through the crag at Dalegarth. This is believed to have been carved by the employee of George Benson, a mill owner. when he built the original Hassness House. The house has always looked odd on the landscape and views of the original one seem to have been more in keeping with the areas beauty.

 
Tree root exposed by countless footfall.
 
 
If she's anything, she's inquisitive.

 
The tunnel.

 
Looking back.
 
This tunnel ( I assume put there by The Victorians) makes a full leisurely lake walk possible without recourse to scrambling over crag, or a long road section. It marks the near end of the walk but a last opportunity to encourage The Beast to take a bath with a big stick throw.

 
Buttermere, a wet dog and High Crag.
 
 
Journey's end(Buttermere) and Melbreak beyond.
 
This takes you through the farm and you come out at The Bridge Hotel. A short walk, not up a mountain, but among them. If you're in The Lakes and don't fancy a fell top, try this, you'll enjoy it.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Police Involvement in moutain rescues and where they go wrong.

When I initially started this blog I stated my former occupation as the control room inspector (now retired) at Cumbria police headquarters. I hope here to improve walkers knowledge of an incident through this experience and my frequent walks in the fells. Some processes have evolved since my leaving and I have tried to keep myself updated on what those are and how they impact on safety on the fells. My specific experience is within Cumbria, The Lake District, though many of the issues I discuss are relevant to other mountainous areas, though the protocols may vary. I have no intention here of giving you guidance on what to take and how to conduct yourself on the fells, the mountain rescue teams make strenuous efforts in this regard through their internet sites and displays at annual shows, etc. and it is not my area of knowledge beyond what an experienced walker already knows. It has been said often enough that you should be adequately clothed for the expected conditions, carry and know how to use a map and compass and any other navigation aid is a suplement to these 'must haves'.
 I'll put down a marker here by stating I hold the volunteers of the mountain rescue service in the highest regard, through their expertise, commitment and bravery.

Let us start firstly with an incident which occurs on the cumbrian fells that you are either involved in or have come across. You ring for the mountain rescue and if you think you are going to get the mountain rescue on that initial call, then this has potential for going seriously adrift immediately. The initial 999 call goes to BT who will ask you 'which service do you require?' and your reply is 'Mountain Rescue'. Remember the M.R. teams are all volunteers and have to earn their own living. You will get the police communications centre who will record the information you give and through a system will pass this to the M.R. team for that area. Where incidents go wrong is the information may be imprecise and it is not given to a person (the operator) who knows the fells intimately, if at all. That operator may never have been on a fell in their life or have any sense of where that is. It is worth noting that mountain rescue incidents probably account for a quarter of one per cent of all calls to the police control room and an operator cannot be expected to be versed in every specialist area. They will take the information you give also asking questions, record it, and pass it on to the mountain rescue team. If you say Eagle Crag to an operator, you are probably describing the Wainwright at Stonethwaite but I know of three other such named crags and know of one incident where the wrong MRT was being called out due to this simple error of location. There are two Seathwaites, two Harter Fells, two Gris(z)edale Pikes, White Side & Whiteside, before we even begin to move on to tarns or forests, Gills, becks of the same name. Difficult as it is a caller must remain calm, you will be asked a series of questions and these have a purpose so answer them, no matter how drawn you are to a casualty. Map references are excellent especially these days with navigation devices or applications on smart mobiles that give you just this, your phone signal itself will not give it, you will need to pass this to the police operator. There are routes I have walked hundreds of times but I still take a GPS so if injured I can give an exact reference for the team or heli. Many mountain leaders will state you should know where you are off a map at all times. This would be utopia but the reality is to deploy an air resource, the six figure map reference is a godsend to the MRT and heli. Many people think they know where they are but have gone off course by 180 degrees. One incident was a full team of six men who walked a Bowfell horseshoe from Langdale and ended up in Boot. So :-
a) State where you are, ie., Scafell Pike
b) Give a six figure map reference(bigger may add to the operators confusion and is too accurate) stating whether from a GPS or worked out from map.
c) State how serious the casualty (it will affect the resource deployment)
d) State where you set off from, ie., Seathwaite, Borrowdale.
e) State by what route you ascended, ie, Corridor route or Grains Gill.
f) Go on to state appropriate clothing & food
g) Don't move from that location.
Regarding g) one mountain rescue team spent all night trying to locate a lost individual who walked and walked. The MRT were checking locations and he wasn't there, but later he was, though the MRT weren't. They finally stumbled upon him in Glenderamackin valley, where he had originally got lost(and still was).
 At c) above, don't centre on this. If the mobile signal is lost then knowing we have a serious casualty somewhere in the lake district means nothing without knowing where and you would be suprised at how many calls are suddenly lost. When police officers are being assaulted they are trained to give three things, location, location, location. The police know there is a problem that's why you're on the 999 call, they want to know where you are ( and spell it).
The police pass this information immediately to the MRT who are the experts on every nook and cranny on their patch. On virtually every mountain rescue they will want to contact you to clear any confusion with the original police contact, so leave someone with the mobile at that location if you can. If everyone drops off the fell to assist the injured party the signal may well be lost for recontacting you. You have not helped the injured party by doing this, though I understand the dilemma if you are the only other person.
 If no recontact has been made after 15minutes then recontact the police control via the 999, believe me when I say something needs clarification, it nearly always does. This is still an emergency so if you cannot get through on the new 101(non emergency) then a second 999 is the appropriate contact method. You are in a mountainous area and will be lucky to get a signal on your own network. The way the 999 system works is where it cannot locate to your service providers network, it will use any network to put in the call. It is vitally important that this point is made because it needs to be understood that when the MRT or police try to recontact you, it can only be via your service providers network and we've already covered that this may not be possible, so without another call you and/or the casualty may be in serious danger through an unnecessary delay. After your first call the MRT have been contacted, if they cannot contact you and you later ring by 101 or 999 the police should be able to transfer this 'live' call to the MRT base station they have by now attended; this was what you had really wanted. On 999 calls the number calling is automatically recorded. If you can, give them every mobile number in the group, particularly on different networks, even if there are six mobiles.
You will reach a point where you are satisfied the MRT are en route and now it's merely a question of waiting, so be patient. Different incidents will have different attendance times but the team have to get to base, get changed, travel to the area where they deploy out of the vehicle and get up to the incident. It amazes me at the speed they respond, but to you it may seem an age. Remain calm, they are bending their will and physical limits to get to you. I could go into accounts where this team of volunteers has only been met with verbal aggression at a response time, but I am sure you can imagine the scene.
 Other areas that require knowledge would include air resource deployment and what is given from a mobile emergency contact regarding your position but there's enough to digest for the moment here.
 Enjoy the great outdoors, dress appropriately, act responsibly and keep safe. Never forget the MRT charity box in the pub. If you can afford a pint, you can afford a donation for these selfless individuals, it's ultimately for your rescue when all is said and done.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bowfell from Langdale and a Cloud Inversion

I had been watching the local weather forecasts for a few days and Wednesday 9th January was looking like it was going to be a good day. That was a stroke of luck as the last three walks this week had been in poor conditions and we were due a clear walk after this summer and autumn. This was a planned day out and not seized upon for the weather so we were to take what was thrown at us. We set off from outside Carlisle at 08.15hrs and headed over from Grasmere where inversions were present from Dunmail Raise. Unfortunately I was unable to stop, but it was breathtaking. We headed over toward Stile End and pulled over for a photo shot at Walthwaite, above Elterwater.

 
A distant view of The Langdales, the inversion in sight.
 
 
Conditions were clear at Old Dungeon Gill. This changed as the day progressed.
 
We continued on, stopping briefly at The Old Dungeon Gill but decided to head toward Blea Tarn to see if we could park the car free of charge. After some 'toing and froing' we finally parked on the roadside. There was a hint of a brocken Spectre halo as the sun shone over the hause from Blea Tarn but by the time we got kitted any opportunity for this had gone. It was 10.10hrs before we finally got moving and our intention was to go right round to Pike of Stickle, but this proved too optimistic in the end. The inversion deepened and the valley looked heavenly.
 
 
 
Looking to Crinkle Crags, Bowfell & Hell Gill

 
The Langdale Pikes and Rossett Pike in the distance.
 
 
We headed up Rakerigg, just skirting Wrynose Fell summit and making our way to Pike O Bliscoe. It was here that we began to get onto frost and ice. It was well worth it for the views from this fell.
 
 
Looking back from Pike O Bliscoe to Lingmoor with it's offshooot that is Side Pike.
 
 Once on the summit, both cairns were very slippery underfoot and the 'fix the fells' paths were lethal to descend on. We made Red Tarn without any major mishap and began to press on upward for Crinkle Crags. This path is loose stone and shallow incline, relatively speaking so we got our heads down and pushed on quickly, stopping occasionally to take in the southern views to Coniston Old Man. Being in the line of the sun, I took no photos of this group, but it looked lovely.
 
 
 
Pressing on for Crinkle Crags after Red Tarn.

 
The view back to Pike O Bliscoe

 
The Scafell Range coming into view

 
Harter Fell(Dunnerdale), peeping through the inversion.

The approach to Crinkle Crags opens up Dunnerdale and Eskdale, with the Scafell Massif opening up as you look out into the direction of The Irish Sea and the mist appeared much deeper here as it rolled in. Once over the first rock outcrop we were then onto The Bad Step path. There is an alternative to this which goes to the left of the rock face that confronts you, but we always take the Step route.
 
 

The Bad Step on Crinkle Crags.
 
One can climb onto the rock overhang but the best route is just above where my dog Holly(The Beast) is. It's a scramble but relatively safe in good weather. Once up here you are then walking to the highest summit cairn on this 'fell of a few tops'. Be careful on this mountain, in poor conditions with cairns all over you can lose the path and what is safe in good visibility can be dangerous if lost in cloud. A tragic incident occurred on 5th of this month (4 days ago) where a walker fell to his death in cloud. Take your time in orientating yourself here.
 We pushed on past Crinkle Crags and our next destination and highest point of the walk was to be Bowfell. It's another 200m ascent from The Three Tarns Hause and we had only had a kitkat by this time. The frost and ice was thick as we walked now in shelter of the sun and I took a tumble taking the shock on my shoulder. I felt some fibres twang but luckily nothing broken or dislocated, it's a risk of the adventure one has to accept. We continued on though I could feel the fatigue of lack of food, but after half an hour we were on the summit with 360degrees views of the inversion and it was stunning.
 
 
Bowfell Bait stop, looking to Lingmoor Fell.

 
 
With a later than expected start with care having to be taken to allow some safety margin in case anything goes wrong, we decided to head off the fell. We chose to head for Angle Tarn from the Ore Gap route to extend the walk so we covered distance but get low early enough. We had considered The Band route, but that would have been too short for the distance we had journeyed. While heading toward Ore Gap a Seaking heli was over Scafell and lowered to it's summit or Lords Rake, the scene of a fatality a month ago. I hope it was a training exercise, though I didn't think it looked like that. Once at Angle Tarn we headed down Rossett Gill, missing Rossett Pike and Pike of Stickle as we had earlier decided. We ate the ground up on this descent and were quickly on the line of the inversion.
 
 
 
Angle Tarn and Bowfell

 
Coming to the inversion line, Langdale Pikes on the left, Lingmoor to the right.

 
Pike of Stickle

 
Beginning to be enveloped.

 
Now just in the mist looking up to Bowfell and Crinkle Crags.
 
 
Once in the valley bottom it is a long valley haul back to Old Dungeon Gill and then we had a road walk to reach the car. You get no traffic noise in this valley which is a big bonus, just the local Herdwicks to wonder at your passing.
 
 
 
Tough Herdwicks, they can get anywhere and live off anything to survive, originally of Viking origin I believe.
 
 
A final picture to show the contrast in conditions from the walks start to it's end, at The Old Dungeon Gill
 
Well, that was 18km, 1250m ascent of a day spent in heaven. We just managed to keep it within our 3km/hr rate, which was good bearing in mind the rugged terrain and iced rocks. Now time for a couple of pints and for the first time we went into Wainwrights Inn at Stile End. I've always went past this heading instead for The Britannia at Elterwater. I thought it might be a bit of a theme bar to Wainwright the man, which never appeals to me but I was wrong, the six cask beers looked good and the two I had were certainly were well kept. I'll stop off here again, though it was a little dark and broody inside, but that is it's nature.
 Now time to head home and having told my wife not to make any dinner as I expected to be well late, I geared myself up to a fried egg butty or beans on toast, but no! A Mediterranean style casseroled chicken dish was just being finalised as I gave the dog it's shower(the outside hosepipe) and the day was rounded off perfectly. Oh bliss.