Who should pay the bill when adventure challenge events go wrong?

November 2008

Who should pay the bill when adventure challenge events go wrong?

The rights and wrongs of payment for mountain rescue services is in the news again.

On this occasion it's the events surrounding this year's Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) event, held in the Lake District during an exceptionally wet October weekend, that has prompted the debate.

Founded in 1968, the OMM event is a 2 day mountain marathon fell run for teams of 2. Each team is required to be completely self-reliant, carrying all their own equipment and without any external support (that means no use of either GPS or mobile phone) whilst completing a trip of up to 52 miles with 2,500m of ascent.

It is intended to be a test of endurance, fitness and navigational skill.

This year's event had to be called off not long after it started due to treacherous weather conditions. This precipitated a huge operation by local mountain rescue teams, police and a RAF search and rescue team who worked for 24 hours to track down competitors who were unaccounted for.

Since then, there has been much heated debate about how rescue operations such as this should be funded.

Prof. John Ashton, who is Cumbria's public health director, has been particularly vocal in his criticism of the organisers suggesting they should contribute to the costs of the operation and that they should not have started the event at all given the weather forecast for the weekend.

However, many competitors (some of whom are members of local mountain rescue teams) have defended the event. They argue that competitors, who are invariably experienced and very well prepared for challenging mountain conditions, should be allowed to test themselves in these type of events and ultimately take responsibility for their own safety.

The debate continues. However an immediate positive outcome is the creation by competitors - and many others who want to express support for the Lake District mountain rescue teams - of a fund which aims to raise £1,000 for each of the 12 teams involved in the rescue.

If you'd like to contribute to this fund - see this link


“Why not charge an entrance fee reflecting the past history (if any)of accepted risks and severity of the journey undertaken,we all know the cost of mounting any kind of rescue operation. A 10 entrance fee would have certainly helped with the cost of emergency services,if they are not needed, then the organisers make a profit,but if it is needed there are funds available.”

Jim Rhodes, Hull Yorks


“Why doesn't a number of organisations such as the Ramblers & the YHA & walking & climbing magazines etc organise a national petition to be sent to the government re the funding of the rescue services. If they don't fund it wholly, they could match the public contribution. If they intend to open up the coastal paths as they are promising to do, then there will be some very cut-off walkers/climbers around the country should things go wrong for them, and they will require the rescue services.”

Mike Evison, Sheffield


“The competitors were all experienced hill walkers, some of whom are montain rescue members themselves. Mountain rescue did it's job - coming in when the conditions worsoned, but in fact, a large proportion of the competitors had come down of the mountains anyway. No-one complains about other recue srvices being present at other events, - ambulances at the london marathon, rescue services at motor racing events, or even sea rescue during sailing events - the whingers and bleeding hearts should stop dissing both the compettitors AND the mountain rescue teams. Long may events like this continue.”

Andrew Millen, Cranbrook


“As an event organiser for a charity, I have to carry out risk assessments and health and safety checks to a ridiculous degree to "protect" members of the public. The idea being that every participant is assumed to have severe learning difficulties and zero common sense. Huge payments are then asked for by insurance companies, which will not protect the organisers if a case of Corporate Manslaughter is brought, should there be a fatal accident, nor will a court take any notice of a signed disclaimer from a participant. High insurance costs plus fear of prosecution is the bane of adventure events, and it also drives up the cost to those taking part, making them exclusive. Therefore, I am assuming this event had adequate insurance, and wonder why a claim has not been made to cover costs incured during the event? Two friends taking part in this particular event thought it was still fantastic.”

Anne Jackson, Sudbury,suffolk


“Instead of concentrating on the highly experienced & well prepared competitors of the OMM maybe more media attention should be placed on educating the less well prepared & inexperienced visitors to our stunning part of the world, as this contributes to call outs that Rescue Teams attend during the year. Bearing in mind these teams give their time & expertise freely”

Jim Oneil, Cockermouth


The views expressed by contributors to this discussion are not necessarily those held by go4awalk.com.

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