Runners risked lives to stay with exhausted walker
A PAIR of Bristol runners are recovering after risking their own lives to help rescue an exhausted walker stuck in a blizzard.
Scout leader Jim Godden and his friend Eddie Winthorpe were doing night winter navigation training for their next 40-mile race when they came across the 76-year-old man on Bleaklow – the second highest hill in the Peak District.
The experienced walker was not able to cope with the extreme conditions and was too tired to make his way down the hill even with the two runners' help, so they called the mountain rescue team.
But they were risking their lives to stay with him in the freezing conditions as temperatures dropped because they were dressed for moving fast rather than staying still in one place.
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They were wearing just a set of thermals, T-shirts and a fleece with full waterproofs on top.
The rescue operation took place on Saturday night, from about 8pm – when 49-year-old Mr Godden and 38-year-old Mr Winthorpe had already been running for four hours.
A major operation was launched by four mountain rescue teams, who were alerted because they thought all three men might need stretchering off the 633m (2,077ft) hill.
Mr Godden, who heads up the 1st Falfield Scouts, had taken a mountain leadership course to allow him to take Scouts walking in all conditions and knew what preparations were needed to stay safe in the bad conditions as they waited for help.
The two friends, whose day jobs see them working at Aztec West, had with them a temporary shelter, a purpose-built survival sleeping bag called a "blizzard pack", energy food and a flashing beacon.
Father-of-three Mr Godden, who lives in Alveston, said: "The conditions were pretty horrible, it was a proper blizzard. You couldn't see more than 20 metres in front of you. There were thigh-high snow drifts.
"But we were properly kitted out for running and were doing fine. Then we saw a light in the distance and thought it must be another team training, so we went to say hello.
"We came across this man who was completely lost, he was not even on the two sides of the map he had open in front of him. He had been out since 9am that morning.
"We tried to get him down the hill but even that was a struggle, he was too tired. I basically dragged him to where we knew there was some shelter by some rocks, and Eddie called the Mountain Rescue team."
The Thornbury Running Club member said they then set up shelter as they waited the two hours for the mountain rescue crew to reach them.
He said it was dangerous for them to stay with the man in those conditions – but they didn't feel they had a choice.
When the rescue team arrived, the 76-year-old man was treated for hypothermia by paramedics.
He said: "He was exhausted and a little hypothermic by the time the rescue team reached us. I'm not sure if he was taken to hospital. I suppose it was a risk for us to stay with him in those conditions, but if you find someone in difficulty you help them out," he added.
"We were not set up to go slowly or stay still, we were set up to run.
"We had limited safety equipment for the two of us – we had to do everything we could to make sure we would be ok. We got behind rocks and put our shelter up."
The man they rescued was very grateful for their help – and the mountain rescue team which followed.
"He realised he had got himself into a bad situation," said Mr Godden.
"I'll probably tell the Scouts this story, to explain to them why I always take my safety equipment with me. You have always got to think – 'what if?'''