Scotland’s mountain rescue teams are being plagued by ill-equipped climbers and walkers risking their lives and those of their rescuers on some of the nation’s most dangerous peaks.
The latest incidents saw two “very lucky” walkers become lost in heavy snow showers in the Cairngorms while wearing little more than light gym equipment.
The French pair who were returning from a failed ascent of Ben Macdui – which at 4,295 feet is the UK’s second highest mountain – were told they were lucky to have survived.
Members of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue, who themselves battled snow flurries and thick fog to find the walkers, discovered they were also without a torch, compass, map, backpacks or jackets.
And they were wearing light clothing – shorts and leggings – described as “gym clothing” by the team.
“If they had stayed out overnight they would have been in a very poor state,” said the mountain rescue team’s deputy leader, Iain Cornfoot.
“They would have struggled to have survived. It was snowing heavy at times and the temperature was down to minus 3C overnight.
“They were very lucky we got to them when we did. Winter is really settling in on the hills now. We want people to enjoy the mountains but to be properly prepared.”
It was the third pair of poorly equipped hikers that Cairngorm MRT have saved since Wednesday, with Mr Cornfoot describing the rescues as “concerning”, “pretty frustrating” and “needless”.
In the latest call-out, team members had just finished a training session when the alarm was raised at around 5pm on Sunday.
The French men, in their 20s, phoned for help at about 3000 feet up Ben Macdui, reporting that they were utterly lost.
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Mr Cornfoot said: “They were in cloud all the time. Unfortunately the walkers’ light gym clothing, lack of a map and compass and lack of a torch were no match for the early snow, rising wind and gathering darkness.
“It was a really bitterly cold night with heavy snow showers.
“Luckily for them, the rapid availability of the team, not yet home from training, and a good location via their phone meant that they were found and escorted to safety quickly.
“We got to them about 6.10pm and had them off the hill around 9.30pm. They were cold but otherwise OK.”
On Thursday, two lost walkers navigating by a dying mobile phone and without a torch or compass, were found by rescuers after a nighttime operation in poor weather on the Cairngorm Plateau.
The man and woman in their 20s had also been returning from Ben Macdui.
The team said the couple had been “navigationally challenged” and “caught out on the plateau in the dark”.
And on Wednesday another pair of walkers were rescued by the team in the same area.