Written on 19/03/24 by Paul Oldham

Piers Gill. Something has changed.

What follows is a guest post by the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team who are asking that this message be shared far and wide so please do share and re-post.

Mountains by their very nature are inherently hazardous, and this is part of their attraction (at least for some). Piers Gill has always been an accident blackspot for the team and there is a long history of serious events and fatalities.

However, the number of incidents of people walking down the gill bed (stream bed) from the Corridor Route on their descent from Scafell Pike has suddenly become more frequent, with four serious events recently:

Piers Gill - safe and dangerous routes

Each one of these rescues has only been successful because of amazing luck in not suffering worse injuries or spending longer in the gill before being found. Piers Gill is extremely hazardous because it comprises of a series of waterfall climbing pitches. They can only safely be attempted by rope access. It can be tempting to believe that the one just descended is the worst, but they get progressively harder. They are also more difficult or impossible to climb back up. This results in a 'trap' where either people become stuck, or they risk taking the next descent, thinking it is the last one.

Piers Gill - safe and dangerous routes

Eventually, either people fall, resulting in traumatic injuries, or become stuck with increasing hypothermia risk. Or both. For rescuers, it is also a hazardous location, primarily because of the steep sides and loose rocks. Almost nothing is truly stable, and so there is always a risk of rockfalls, even with a technically perfect rope system.

Piers Gill - safe and dangerous routes

So, we need some help. For some unknown reason people are starting to take this route more often. The relevant authorities are reacting and considering what additional things they can do to prevent people accidentally straying into the top of the gill, which, at the top, looks fairly benign. The only path down is on the east rim of the gill and even that goes very close to the edge and has a rock step.

Our responsibility is only for search and rescue, not prevention. We also need help to raise awareness outside of this 'following'. Good navigation and awareness is needed, and none of the walkers in the events above intended to be where they were found. We realise that, to a large extent, we don't need to remind the followers of this page, but we do need to reach others who come to enjoy the mountains and are not seasoned walkers. As well as the well-prepared walkers, we see many people on Scafell Pike unaware of the very real hazards.

We are asking that you share this widely please, in order that we can reach a different and diverse group and avoid similar future incidents in Piers Gill. Thank you.

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Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions.