"I knew if I fell asleep I would die" says Lancaster teenager trapped on Lake District mountain Scafell Pike

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As darkness arrived and he found himself trapped in sub-zero temperatures, Lancashire teenager Ben prepared himself for death on the mountainside - while being plagued by bizarre hallucinations.

A lucky teen escaped death after he plunged down a freezing waterfall and broke his leg on England’s highest mountain.

Ben Longton, 18, feared he would ‘die if he fell asleep’ after he spent nine hours trapped alone in a snowy canyon following his 32ft (10m) fall on Scafell Pike.

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Ben Longton, 18, feared he would ‘die if he fell asleep’ after he spent nine hours trapped alone in a snowy canyon following his 32ft (10m) fall on Scafell Pike.Ben Longton, 18, feared he would ‘die if he fell asleep’ after he spent nine hours trapped alone in a snowy canyon following his 32ft (10m) fall on Scafell Pike.
Ben Longton, 18, feared he would ‘die if he fell asleep’ after he spent nine hours trapped alone in a snowy canyon following his 32ft (10m) fall on Scafell Pike. | SWNS

The farm worker had neared the top of the 3,209ft (978m) peak in the Lake District on March 1 this year in fine weather but faced a freak blizzard on his descent.

And as he headed down paths covered by roughly 12 inches (30cm) of snow with his dogs, Dug and Bella, he tumbled down a waterfall.

Ben dragged himself out of its plunge pool nursing a broken right leg but was then left stuck in a 6ft (1.8m) wide ravine with no phone signal.

Ben Longton /SWNS

And as darkness arrived, in sub-zero temperatures, he prepared himself for death on the mountainside - while being plagued by bizarre hallucinations.

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He said: “From about 8pm to 2am I just thought I was dead. I just thought, 'I am going to fall asleep and die here' because it was better than freezing.

“I was lying there and I kept closing my eyes to try and sleep, and I was imaging some guy with some stairs up the gill just saying, ‘C’mon then, just walk up these.’”

“I’d open my eyes and then there would just be a massive wall, and I’d think, ‘Ah, it’s not there’.

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Wasdale MountainRescueTeam /SWNS

Ben’s dad called Cumbria Police when he failed to return home, who then tasked Wasdale Mountain Rescue with a night-time search operation.

And remarkably, when volunteers shouted for him several hours later, Ben managed to blow his dog whistle which attracted their attention.

He was later winched to safety and a Coastguard helicopter then brought him to Preston Hospital where he spent the next three weeks recovering.

Ben Longton /SWNS

Thankful Ben said he hoped to return the favour to the team by one day joining their ranks - while also vowing to take on the mountain in the future.

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He said: “I’m very grateful. There’s nothing I could do without them at the end of the day. Maybe one day I might join the mountain rescue team.

“It’s not going to change anything – it’s just one mistake that could have been avoided”.

Wasdale MountainRescueTeam /SWNS

A Wasdale Mountain Rescue spokesperson said they were thrilled at Ben's recovery, but added that these types of accidents were sadly becoming far too regular.

They said: “We are so pleased for Ben that he is making such a good recovery, but he was exceptionally lucky to survive.

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"Ben's accident came only a day after the previous one in the same location.

"These incidents pose a grave danger for the casualties and the rescuers because of the difficulties in accessing the location.

"We are working with the National Trust who own the land, to find ways of reducing such incidents."

Wasdale MountainRescueTeam /SWNS

Ben, from Lancaster, said he had gone up Scafell Pike with his one-year-old Labrador Retriever, Bella, and two-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Dug, during the morning.

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But as he got close to the summit, the previously good weather suddenly worsened and snow began to blanket the mountainside.

He was soon faced with ‘white-out’ conditions and needed to keep checking his phone to ensure he was on the right route as the powder reached his knees.

And as he tried to make his way down the side of a waterfall to safety, he fell into its icy pool below at around 5pm.

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Wasdale MountainRescueTeam /SWNS

Ben said: “I got the dogs that I had to sit down at the top… But when I was on the steep bit, I slipped and fell into the plunge pool.

“I put pressure on my right leg and then halfway up my femur, it just bent backwards. It was painful but it was more numb from all the cold. I didn’t really feel anything.

“I had no signal, so I dragged myself about 20m across the stream down the snow until there was another waterfall, and I just realised that I had to stop there.”

Ben tried to use the emergency call function on his phone, but with no signal, he gave up and was left shivering in his bleak surroundings.

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He later confronted the sad reality that he might perish on the mountain after his numerous shouts for help went unanswered.

Wasdale MountainRescueTeam /SWNS

Ben said: “I stopped checking my phone because my hands were frozen. I could barely touch it. I was like, ‘I can’t do much now, nobody is walking down any more.'"

Wasdale Mountain Rescue was dispatched to look for him just after 8pm, and they called in backup from RAF Leeming, RAF Valley, the Coast Guard and other trained search teams.

And at around 2am, as searchers reached a dangerous gully called Piers Gill, just over a mile from the summit, Ben responded to their calls by blowing his whistle.

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He remembered: “I saw the flashlight at the top and I had my dog whistle, so I just blew on that until they put the light on me and I realised they had found me.”

Ben remained in the ridge for another few hours until a team could reach his position safely. They later used a winch to haul him to safety after daylight broke.

Wasdale MountainRescueTeam /SWNS

His dogs, which had waited patiently at the top of the waterfall for him, were saved by members of Wasdale and Duddon & Furness Mountain Rescue teams.

Ben was transferred to Preston Hospital by helicopter, where doctors found the femur in his right leg was broken in four places and he had severe hyperthermia.

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Although they thought he would go into cardiac arrest, his condition thankfully stabilised and he managed to leave the hospital after a three-week stay.

Ben has now returned home where he’s been forced to rest up for the last few weeks but is expected to recover fully.

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