Grading System Proposal to Prevent Lake District Mountain Emergencies

Discussions are underway between the Lake District National Park Authority, the National Trust, English Heritage and mountain rescue volunteers over the potential introduction of a mountain rating system, designed to help cut hiker fatalities and emergency callouts in the region.

Recent increases in tourist visitor numbers, with further increases due to follow, have led to a rise in emergency-related deaths to walkers in the region, prompting the idea of a system that provides information on a trail's difficulty and estimated completion time, in a similar way to what is currently used to grade mountains for skiing and cycling activities.

Mountain rescue services were called out 543 times in 2017 - the hope is a system like this, if put in place, could lead to rescue incidents decreasing by 150 a year.

Richard Warren, regional chairman of the Lake District Search and Rescue Association suggested that "signs in car parks that give information about the fells in a clear format could help to reduce the number of rescues required every year."

"If these signs graded a particular route in the same way as we do for skiing or mountain bikes, for instance, and told people how long it would take them to go up and then down again it would probably make them think carefully about whether they were properly prepared as they set off."

"It might tell walkers Mickledore is a red route in summer and a black route in winter. We wouldn't see people setting off at 2pm in the afternoon in winter if they read the walk was going to take four hours.”

Scafell, Helvellyn and Blencathra are under consideration for the system, using green (easy/beginner), blue, red and black (hard/expert) labels that indicate the difficulty level. The labels could be applied to individual routes and would differ based on the time of year and/or the weather.