Air Ambulance Helicopter Stranded on Scafell Pike for Two Days in Unprecedented Event

In a rare occurrence that tested the resilience and preparedness of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), a helicopter was stranded atop Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, for two days.

This marked the first such incident in the service’s 16-year history of responding to emergencies in the Lake District and beyond.

The Incident:

The drama unfolded on March 16 when the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team requested the assistance of GNAAS’s critical care team for a walker who had suffered a shoulder injury on Scafell Pike.

The GNAAS team, comprising pilot Mik, paramedic Andy, and doctor Jon, responded swiftly, reaching the injured individual in just 17 minutes from their base in Langwathby, Penrith.

Weather Worsens:

As the medical team administered advanced pain relief and assessed the walker’s injuries, the weather on the mountain took a turn for the worse. Fog and the risk of icing, which are significant hazards under Civil Aviation Authority guidelines, made it impossible for the helicopter to take off. The injured walker was safely evacuated by the mountain rescue teams, but the ‘Pride of Cumbria II’ helicopter remained stuck on the summit.

Overnight on the Mountain:

Faced with no immediate prospect of departure, the team prepared for an overnight stay. While Andy and Jon returned to base, pilot Mik remained with the helicopter, equipped with emergency provisions including food, water, and heat blankets. Despite hopes for a weather improvement, the fog persisted, and Mik eventually made the descent on foot the following day.

Successful Return:

The helicopter remained on Scafell Pike until conditions allowed for its safe return on Monday afternoon, piloted back to Langwathby by a team member who hiked up to retrieve it. This incident, though rare, highlighted the unpredictable nature of the Lake District’s weather and the challenges it poses to rescue operations.

Uninterrupted Service:

Despite the temporary loss of one helicopter, GNAAS assured the public that their service remained uninterrupted, with other helicopters and rapid response vehicles attending to a dozen incidents across Cumbria and the North East during the period.


The stranding of the GNAAS helicopter on Scafell Pike serves as a testament to the dedication and preparedness of the air ambulance service and its personnel.

Facing adverse conditions with resilience, the team ensured that their mission to provide critical care in the region’s most remote areas continued unabated.

This incident underscores the vital role of air ambulance services in emergency response and the challenges they navigate to save lives.

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