Off the beaten track
Last year, mountain-rescue teams in the Lake District received a record number of callouts for emergency aid, many of which they have termed ‘entirely avoidable’—i.e. someone in jeans and designer trainers, armed with only GPS signal, who has got lost, sometimes fatally. there have been 10 walking-related deaths there this year alone, an increase of 66% on 2017. Only this month, a party of 18 got lost on 3,209ft scafell Pike and were heading towards a notorious accident blackspot when they alerted the emergency services.
With its country pubs, historic villages and breathtaking scenery, the area, termed by William Wordsworth ‘the loveliest spot that man hath found’, is Britain’s most popular national park and continues to be a huge draw for both local and international tourists. Now, to mitigate danger and time-wasters, mountainrescue experts have drawn up a map that grades the most popular footpaths by level of difficulty as well as length, much like ski runs.
the National trust and the Lake District National Park authority are ‘very reluctant to have signs on mountains,’ explains Richard Warren, regional chairman of the Lake District search and Rescue association, but ‘they have accepted that there need to be better signs in the car parks’, which could indicate the colourcoded routes. Many others are reluctant to do anything that would affect the rugged nature of the open fells, but cairns marking the safest routes down from the tops of mountains may be a less jarring alternative to signs.
Mr Warren would also like to encourage people to think about ‘what they should be wearing and what they should be carrying when they go on the mountains, including the things that are critical, such as a map, compass and a torch’, which ‘could save your life’.
Respect the mountain: colour-coding popular walks could save the unprepared from harm