Stupidity on Ben Nevis

Stupidity can get you killed

The leader of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team has issued a strongly-worded warning in the wake of a walker's "act of sheer stupidity" in trying to tackle Ben Nevis in winter in trainers.

John Stevenson (58), who heads up Britain's busiest mountain rescue unit, said a man rescued on Monday afternoon was fortunate to be alive after attempting the country's highest peak without proper equipment for the conditions and time of year.

The 31-year-old walker was airlifted to hospital in Fort William after he fell while descending the 4,409ft, snow-covered Ben. He sustained a leg injury while walking on the main mountain track and managed to alert the police to his situation at about 4pm.

A full search and rescue operation was launched involving police, 18 mountain rescuers and a Royal Navy helicopter from HMS Gannet, Prestwick.

The injured man was located and airlifted from the Red Burn area, above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, and was treated at Belford Hospital for his injury and the effects of the cold.

Mr Stevenson said the incident could have turned to tragedy.

He said: "He's an extremely lucky young man to have survived."

"His equipment was just rubbish - he had nothing. He was wearing trainers and didn't have a torch."

"He did everything we tell people not to do. When we found him he'd lost one trainer, the backside was out of his trousers and he was wet and cold."

"There's no doubt in my mind that he would not have survived the night if he hadn't phoned in on his mobile, and we were lucky enough to find him."

"He didn't actually set off on his ascent until 11am, having come straight off the train at Fort William. That's just a ridiculous time to be starting out when darkness falls at about 4pm. It's crazy and not on at all."

"He made it to the summit okay but slipped on the way back down and managed to call the police on his mobile phone."

Mr Stevenson added: "Initially he was on the so-called tourist path but he lost his way and veered off the path."

"He slipped and hurt his leg but kept on walking - but realised he was lost and phoned the police."

"He was talking to the police as he walked and then the phone just went dead. All the officer could hear was running water."

"We had been alerted by this time and were on standby, so when the line cut out we all feared the worst."

"I knew the only place on the top half where you can hear water running like that is the Red Burn, so we sent two members of the team up with the helicopter, as well as members on foot. Luckily the first two found the casualty pretty quickly. He had fallen but was okay. He'd lost his phone."

Mr Stevenson said he found it increasingly frustrating that, despite annual messages from rescue teams, climbing organisations and the police, walkers were still heading to the mountains ill-equipped for the conditions.

"People need to be prepared," he urged. "They need to heed the advice about having proper equipment and clothing."

"The thing is, so many people get away with it every year, but unfortunately many don't and end up injured - or worse."

"The man on Monday was very lucky indeed and we could see he was extremely relieved to be off that mountain."

Article from Lochaber News, 9th January, 2013