Written on 22/08/18 by Paul Oldham

The problem with The Priest's Hole

The Priest's Hole is a cave on the face of Dove Crag which has grown in popularity following the BBC's Secret Britain programme in 2016 and the programme has increased the number of people attempting to spend the night there.

Unfortunately this has lead to several serious incidents, including a fatal accident at the site, as it is difficult to get to.

For example last Sunday morning Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team were called out at 4:09am(!) by Cumbria Police to respond to a report of four very wet and cold walkers somewhere near to Dove Crag, high in the Lake District. The four walkers, like several others before them, had failed to locate the Priest's Hole where they had intended to spend the night.

Dove Crag, with the Priest's Hole cave
Dove Crag

The Team's leader, Mike Blakey, said:

The Priest's Hole is not an easy place to find and it sits high on the face of Dove Crag, an overhanging cliff. The route in and out can be dangerous and the start of the path can be difficult to locate, even for experienced walkers who know the location.

I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of understanding and taking note of the weather forecast. Just like last weekend, the unpleasant weather was forecast and therefore wholly predictable. Walkers must make sure they are properly equipped for their adventures and the weather. This means that you need waterproofs when it rains.

Although rescue teams are always willing to respond to those in need, people do need to make sure they are well prepared and resilient enough to at least take care of themselves until rescuers arrive. With the right equipment people can often take care of themselves and walk out after sunrise, when things often look better.

When anyone calls for a mountain rescue team a chain of events unfolds from the 999 telephone call onwards. It starts with team members being alerted (by the Police, ambulance or Coastguard) via SMS, email and landline messages from the SARCALL system. One simple call can wake forty team members, as it did at 0400 this morning. From that point on, the rescue team's duty leader will try to establish contact and work out where the injured or missing person is. In this instance, they were sitting right on the 'border' between Langdale MRT and Patterdale MRT. Given the four people were reporting that they were very wet and cold, both rescue teams went to their aid.

As it happens on this occasion the four walkers were located safely at around 7:15am by team members from both teams but the incident lasted six hours and involved a large number of people, all volunteers.

So can we echo what Mike said and emphasise that The Priest's Hole is not an easy place to find, that the route in and out can be dangerous, and the start of the path can be difficult to find even for experienced walkers who know the location. We really can't recommend trying to visit it (especially in the dark!) unless you have a very experienced guide.

Tagged: news, safety

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WalkLakes recognises that hill walking, or walking in the mountains, is an activity with a danger of personal injury or death.
Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.