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Lost walkers on Cader Idris

February 23, 2023

Shortly before 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday 22nd Feb, call-handlers from Aberdyfi Search & Rescue Team were made aware of two walkers lost on Cader Idris.

The men, from Swansea and in their late teens and early twenties, were attempting to complete the Welsh three-peaks, having started on Pen y Fan earlier in the day. On Cader Idris they had become disorientated in low cloud over Pen y Gader, and had spent time trying to find their way off the summit plateau. A lack of navigational experience, extra equipment or resources meant that they were eventually overcome by darkness and exhaustion in the poor conditions, and had become very cold and anxious.

With one phone battery flat and no data connection available on the other, the usual remote phone-location strategies could not be used to find the pair, and so a hasty party was dispatched based on a best-guess from the understandably confused narrative of the walkers’ information. Meanwhile other Team volunteers and equipment were moved higher up the mountain in readiness.

The pair were located around mid-way between Pen y Gader and Mynydd Moel. They were put into a shelter, given more clothing and fed warm drinks and food, and were assessed by the rescuers. One of the men was starting to have significant challenges with balance and coordination, and with the significant descent over broken ground before them, it was decided to request assistance from Coastguard helicopter Rescue936. The aircraft attended the incident, but despite the crew’s best efforts, the prevailing conditions presented too great a risk for the pick-up to be attempted.

With close support from Team volunteers, the men began the long journey off the hill. Although the increased activity along with clothing, food and drink started to have a positive impact on mood and temperature, balance problems and muscle fatigue were still major issues for the men and  progress was slow, particularly over steep or broken ground.

Everyone was safely off the mountain by 11:00 p.m.
Team volunteer Graham O’Hanlon was one of the party who found the lost men. “Conditions on the summit plateau were difficult, with ice on the rocks, low visibility and snow flurries falling from time to time. The walkers had little extra equipment to fall back on when things started going awry, and being exhausted and exposed to the weather, they would have been in serious danger had we not located them. It is always tempting to travel light, but particularly in winter it is really important to carry extra food and clothing to cope with unexpected delays in the mountains.”

Food and extra clothing help raise the mood, but there is nothing like seeing the bottom of the hill for raising a smile.