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Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (LMRT) leader John Stevenson has described four people who had to be rescued from near the summit of Ben Nevis in blizzard conditions this week as ‘total idiots’ after they were found without the right winter kit and with three of them wearing trainers.
There was also a barrage of online anger directed at the quartet with politicians and even a television presenter labelling the four as ‘selfish and stupid’ and ‘clowns of the century’.
Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team said the four, who were trapped near the summit of Ben Nevis in blizzard conditions on Monday afternoon, were lucky to be alive as they had no winter kit, such as ice axes and crampons. Three of them were only wearing trainers.
Twenty two team members were deployed in the search for the four young men, who were reported to be stuck on steep ground.
Describing the weather as ‘horrendous’, the team said its members had to battle a wind chill factor in the region of minus 20 degrees.
All four were eventually found by rescuers and airlifted off the mountain and taken to the Belford Hospital, Fort William.
LMRT said the four were extremely lucky. ‘No winter kit – no ice axes, no crampons and, as far as we are aware, no maps. Three of the guys were in trainers.
‘They were about 150 metres down into Coire Eoghainn on steep ice and if they had slipped or gone down, any further consequences could have been far more serious.’
The revelations of how poorly equipped the quartet were for an assault on the summit of the UK’s highest mountain in freezing winter conditions made worse by a severe storm, sparked widespread criticism.
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron tweeted: ‘Glad this had a good ending but trainers! Come on, folks.’
Glasgow North West SNP MSP Carol Monaghan tweeted: ‘Clowns of the century award to this group who decide to climb Ben Nevis in Storm Ciara.’
And television presenter and journalist Lee McKenzie posted a tweet that described the four as ‘selfish and stupid’.
But while LMRT acknowledged the rescue had created a useful amount of national and international publicity about mountain safety, they also asked for people to ‘back off’ a bit in their criticism.
LMRT commented:’The casualties admit they made a significant error of judgement and are extremely sorry for the results of their actions. The guys were just members of the public who, perhaps, were unaware of what they were getting into.
‘Not being from the UK and with limited English, a lot of the information available to mountaineers and hill walkers would not have been accessible to them, so perhaps there is an element of mitigation in respect of their actions, clothing and lack of equipment.
‘At present, money from the Scottish Government is channeled, via Sportscotland, quite rightly so, into the Avalanche Information Service and for training and education through centres like Glenmore Lodge and agencies such as Mountaineering Scotland.
‘Most of this will be targeted at people who are either engaged in the sport or have an interest in taking it up. Perhaps more thought needs to be given into how to inform the general public/casual tourist about how dangerous our small mountains are and how severe our weather can get and how it will catch-out the unwary and uninformed at any time of the year.
‘Unfortunately it takes incidents like this to raise the profile in the media and the message has definitely got out. So there is a positive from the incident. Therefore, let us just cut the guys a little bit of slack.’
Mr Stevenson told the Lochaber Times this week: ‘They were four very young guys and were total idiots. We gave them a right roasting and they were left in no doubt as to how foolish they had been. They were completely out of their depth.
‘But they know that now and have had a lot of criticism and that’s why we posted the request for people to perhaps tone down the amount of slagging they’re giving them.’