The announcement was made in Ambleside, today, by Bob Fell, a grizzled mountaineer and team leader, who would give Chris Bonington a run for his money in a Chris Bonington look-alike competition. “For years”, said Bob, “the men of the Lakeland Mountain Rescue Team have been ready - at a moment’s notice, day or night - to search for people missing on injured on the mountains. Thanks to their bravery and committment, many lives have been saved.
“Times are changing, however, and for every accomplished hiker, there are dozens of people whose walking experience extends no further than a brief expedition down to the shops for a paper and twenty Bensons. Yet, once they’ve invested in a fancy cagoule with two dozen pockets, they’re convinced they can climb England’s highest peaks.
“Over-confident, yet laughably ill-equipped, they get into trouble even before they’ve crossed a contour line. Unprepared for a change in the weather, or the ravages of hunger and thirst, they assume, unwisely, that there’ll be a take-away over the crest of every hill. They may have neglected to pack anything warm, or waterproof, or edible, or thirst-quenching, but they never go anywhere without their mobile phones. So, with only the vaguest notion of what constitutes an emergency, they think of the Mountain Rescue Team as a convenient extension of room service.
“The result is that we’re getting an increasing number of phone calls from distraught walkers, trying to deal with such unforseen natural disasters as a strong breeze or a passing shower. We’re asked to deliver ‘a new pair of boot-laces’ or ‘some milk for the tea, we forgot to bring any’. Some callers don’t have a clue where they are: ‘If we knew where we were, we wouldn’t be ringing you, would we? We're lost, for God's sake. Send a helicopter; it's starting to rain’.
“We can’t keep mustering the team just to deliver a bar of Kendal Mint Cake to some hungry hiker on Hellvellyn, so, regretfully, we’ve decided to start charging for some of our services. In future, if there isn't a genuine emergency, then those boot-laces are going to be expensive”...