Yorkshire fell runner walked nearly a mile on a broken ankle and with hypothermia setting in after moorland accident

A fell runner who broke his ankle on remote moorland during sub zero temperatures has told how he hobbled nearly a mile to find help.

Sunday, 14th February 2021, 4:45 pm
Nick Small while fell running in the snow around Calderdale. Picture: Nick Small

Experienced outdoors sportsman Nick Small had ventured out onto Ovenden Moor above Oxenhope, West Yorkshire, when he slipped on ice while standing up in the incident three weeks ago.

Mr Small, a coach and TV producer who has previously worked on programmes such as Countryfile, had stopped for a drink and was turning around to head back when his foot contorted underneath him and he heard the snap of his fibula breaking just above his ankle.

Terrified, and realising that in the time it would take for mountain rescue volunteers to reach him he could die of hypothermia, the 58-year-old said he had no option to walk back on a broken ankle if he were to survive the sub zero temperatures.

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Nick Small while fell running in the snow around Calderdale. Picture: Nick Small

He has now spoken about the experience to warn people about the dangers of heading out into remote areas alone, saying that even the most experienced and well-prepared outdoors people can fall victim.

Writing online, Mr Small described his walk to the nearest road as "the longest and most excruciating 0.8 miles of my life", eventually finding another runner who helped him as he waited for a relative to meet him.

Worse still, sweat in the base layers of his running clothes meant hypothermia was setting in on his excruciating 25 minute journey, as temperatures in remote parts of Yorkshire have plummeted to some of the coldest on record in recent weeks.

"I hadn't even been running in the moment it happened," he said.

"I had just had one foot on a piece of ice. You can be extremely experienced and well prepared, but it only takes one second to slip.

"By the time I had got up off the ground, I was already cold and that was literally within 30 seconds. I know the area well and I realised that the nearest mountain rescue team in Mytholmroyd would be an hour away - I knew that I wouldn't survive that given how cold it was."

Mr Small hobbled very slowly along the path he had been on, which fortunately was reasonably flat.

"By the time my relative came to pick me up, I was absolutely freezing and I was well on the way to hypothermia."

Despite being equipped with a fully charged phone, thermals, a whistle and a first aid kit, Mr Small said he could still have been better prepared had he packed more dry clothes and warned anybody against going outdoors in remote areas without being prepared for every eventuality.

He also urged anyone to text 112 in emergencies in isolated areas with poor reception, as this was more likely to come through to responders than a phone call.

Kirsty Hall, from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, said it was important to keep moving despite an injury if someone becomes stranded in freezing temperatures, as hypothermia could be more dangerous than the risk of worsening the injury.

She said: "Being wet speeds up hypothermia so ideally get out of wet clothes and into dry spares if you can. Having emergency food is also advised as this will give you energy to keep you warm."

Downloading the What3Words app and being aware of Mountain Rescue England & Wales' Adventure Smart principles is also advised. Donations to Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team can be made here.