Pennine Way endurance runners rescued
- 21 January 2013
- From the section South Scotland
Rescue teams in the Borders were called out to help runners stranded by blizzard conditions in an endurance race along the Pennine Way on Saturday.
The competitors were taking part in 268-mile challenge of the Spine Race.
Borders Search and Rescue Unit was called out to rescue three racers on Saturday morning and, at the same time, Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team had to assist a further five competitors.
All of the runners involved were helped off the hillside safe and well.
BSARU team leader Damon Rodwell said he was not surprised to be called out to help competitors in the event - described as "Britain's most brutal race" - which has a one-week time limit.
"I'd been up on the route on Thursday to meet the lead runner, a 32-year-old Spaniard, whom I had to help off the hill in a bit of a state with badly ice-damaged legs and exhaustion," he said.
"He was carrying a GPS tracker which was updating his position on the event website and a sharp-eyed team-mate from BSARU noticed very quickly that he had descended from the Pennine Way a few miles too early."
Icy squalls of snow
He was found in a state of "near collapse" being supported by one of the race organisers.
Mr Rodwell said the weather had taken a "turn for the worse" on Friday night, with blizzard conditions even at low levels.
They later received the call to rescue three runners who had taken refuge in a hut on Lamb Hill.
Eight personnel were despatched up the hill to trace the racers.
"Even clad in full winter gear, with ice-axes, winter boots and full waterproof body cover, it was a struggle," said Mr Rodwell.
"Icy squalls of snow on a strong south-easterly wind combined with deep drifts to hamper our progress.
"We arrived at the hut to find all three runners safely huddled inside."
He described them as "pretty well-equipped" but "soaked to the skin, cold and exhausted".
Mr Rodwell also praised the navigation efforts of competitor Dave Lee in managing to lead the runners to the hut.
Meanwhile, Tweed Valley MRT - which was providing cover at the Feel the Burns race in Selkirk - was asked to help another five runners at a refuge hut at Auchope.
It was able to send a vehicle and five members to Kirk Yetholm to ensure the group made its way to safety.
"It was a very satisfactory conclusion to what could have been a very complicated incident," said Mr Rodwell.
"We're very supportive of people who decide to test themselves with the appropriate clothing for the conditions and the requisite knowledge and fitness for the challenge they are tackling.
"On this occasion, what could have been a tragic end to a very stern test of human endurance was prevented by a combination of appropriate use of technology, excellent hill-craft and a highly professional and efficient operation mounted by the local search and rescue volunteers."