Camera flash keeps rescuers in the picture
By Paul Stokes
Students used the flash of a camera to attract rescuers after they got stuck 800ft up a mountain in pitch darkness.
Five members of the Newcastle University Mountaineering Club were stranded when thick fog and the night closed in on Snowdon in North Wales.
They summoned help with their mobile phones before eating chocolate and climbing into bivvy bags to keep warm.
The group had started climbing the Y Lliwedd rock face on Saturday afternoon but ran into problems as visibility worsened.
"We were scared," said Chris Meikle, 23, "We thought we knew the route but decided not to risk it and called mountain rescue with our location and status." As their food and drink supplies ran out, they kept up their spirits by singing, telling jokes and talking about steak.
The mountain rescue team struggled to pinpoint them, so John Chadwick, 23, a medical student, and Andy Gregory, 23, a PhD student, resorted to the camera flash.
"They used the flash so the rescue team could spot us in the dark. Thankfully it worked," said Mr Meikle who, like Mr Gregory, is studying for a PhD in physical geography.
Rescuers abseiled down the vertical face to reach the students and hauled them up to the ridge in an eight-hour operation.
Ian Henderson, the secretary of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, said: "They were firing the camera flash at regular intervals. We were able to see the white flash through the gloom."
He added: "The guide books advise climbers to avoid Y Lliwedd only in exceptionally bad conditions, and conditions were not terrible. The climbers may have under-estimated the time it took to complete the ascent, but acted perfectly sensibly by alerting us."