Safety Signage Planned for Scafell Pike

© Dan Bailey

New measures aimed at improving safety at Piers Gill have been ageed. Scene of frequent rescue callouts and fatalities, the area is an accident black spot, where walkers on the ever-busy Corridor Route to and from Scafell Pike and on Lingmell Col pass close to the top of the ravine, and where in poor visibility the correct route is not always obvious.

The busy path passes close to the top of Piers Gill, and people often go astray here  © Dan Bailey
The busy path passes close to the top of Piers Gill, and people often go astray here
© Dan Bailey

In an attempt to reduce accidents, the National Trust and path building charity Fix the Fells, in consultation with the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team, will be making some small changes at the Piers Gill junction. 

Following a series of serious rescues involving challenging casualty evacuations, the three organisations attended a site visit in April where they walked the route from Lake Head car park up to Lingmell Col and across to Piers Gill to discuss the issue on the ground.

John Bamforth, Chairman of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team said "The site visit was extremely helpful, demonstrating strong inter- agency cooperation in showing the issues that are continuing to cause confusion to visitors in the vicinity of Lingmell Col and Piers Gill.

"More worrying is the increasing numbers of rescues our volunteer team members are having to respond to in an extremely dangerous location and for some of our visitors, tragic outcomes from simple navigation errors."

It was accepted that overt signage on the fell might set a concerning precedent and more discrete signs could easily be missed in adverse weather conditions. Instead the decision was made to build a 'memorable' cairn on the left side of the junction on the way down from the summit, opposite Lingmell Col at the point where it meets the path towards the Corridor Route to help with wayfinding where a choice has to be made between descending left to Wasdale or right to Borrowdale.

Piers Gill - a major gorge, but not always obvious from above  © John Malley
Piers Gill - a major gorge, but not always obvious from above
© John Malley

In case anyone was to still take the wrong turn into Piers Gill, a sign will be placed at the point of no return advising to turn back. In order not to entice people down towards it, this sign will be out of sight from the Corridor Route.

Large stones will also be placed where the route crosses the head of the gill to ensure that the safe Corridor Route path is clear at this key point, even in low visibility.

Down in the valley, more information relating to safety on the fells and signage with OS mapping will be placed at the exit points of the major car parks and areas from which visitors tend to begin their ascent including Lake Head, Wasdale Green and Seathwaite. 

Neil Thirkell, Lead Ranger for the National Trust says: "we had a very positive and constructive site meeting looking at issues around safety on the route down Scafell Pike and around Piers Gill. We also learned more on the effort and emotion that goes into some of the rescues [at] this particular site. We came away having agreed on a few measures to help visitors have a safe day in the fells – and hopefully fewer call outs for the rescue team."

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What a sad state of affairs. It's a bit like bolting a classic VS on Stanage, and the thin end of the wedge arguments apply here too.

6 Jun

Sad that it's considered necessary but the measures themselves don't sound too bad. A waymarking cairn is exactly what they're "designed" for.

Hopefully it doesn't become a precedent for ever decreasing standards, but unfortunately it appears that the number of numpties on the fells is only going in one direction.

6 Jun

I was expecting to be horrified by this based on the headlines, but it sounds like they've done it fairly sensitively. Mountain Rescue people don't tend to be health and safety obsessed nanny state types, and are always going to be people with a great love and respect for the outdoors and the traditions around it, so I'm inclined to think they must have pretty real concerns about the location if they're going along with this.

The 'safety signage' in the headline seems to refer to a single sign fairly tucked away at a point where someone has already gone quite wrong and is in imminent danger. I don't love this idea, but hopefully it is as discreet as they've suggested. The rest, in more obvious locations (a cairn and some boulders) sound pretty in keeping with the general mountain environment in the area.

Disclaimer: I'm not familiar with the precise locations, so perhaps I've let myself be overly reassured by misleading descriptions of the proposal?

6 Jun

If this is satire you’re a genius.

6 Jun

Had to check to see it wasn’t April…

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