Oldham Mountain Rescue Team (OMRT) have issued a warning to walkers planning to hike the newly named “Trinnacle Trail”. Recent exposure of the Trinnacle, a three-pronged rock stack near Dovestone Reservoir, has inspired a lot of people to head to the impressive feature.
But the team are keen to stress that this is no ordinary walk. Passing Birchen Clough, the trail to reach the stack, which has now been dubbed the Trinnacle Trail, can be treacherous, turning into more of a crawling clamber than a walk to navigate parts of the rocky path.
The weather in the hills can also be quite unpredictable, with the ability to quickly turn foul with very little notice – even when it’s glorious weather lowers down the hill. With more pictures being posted on social media, and the Trinnacle featuring in a variety of news reports since a restaurant manager had to be rescued after falling 200ft from the stack, more and more people have tried to tackle the trek – with most of them being vastly underprepared for the difficulty of the trail.
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Now, Rob Tortoishell, team leader at OMRT, has issued a warning to anyone looking to walk the trail, after the team saw the number of callouts to the area rise rapidly last year, with seven of the 50 incidents in 2021 taking place in the area – and three involving serious, potentially life-changing injuries.
He said: “There has been a lot of publicity in recent months about the newly named ‘Trinnacle Trail’, a walking route in the Dovestones area of Saddleworth that takes in ‘Greenfield Waterfall’ (in Birchen Clough) and the spectacular 3 pronged gritstone pillar known locally as the Trinnacle.Although it has always been a popular destination for those in the know, exposure on social media, along with local and national news outlets, has meant the number of people tackling the trail has emerged.
“While we always encourage people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, it is important that they understand the potential risks that may be encountered. Although the Trinnacle Trail may be advertised as one of the best walks in the UK, it must be understood there are some parts that are more than a walk: the section up Birchen Clough past Greenfield Waterfall is a scramble that often requires the use of hands and feet to make progress up the rocky steps; it is not for the faint hearted.
“As well as the challenging terrain, even on the brightest of days, the weather in the hills can change in an instant. What may be shorts and t-shirt weather down in the valley can soon become a very different prospect at higher levels on the edge of Saddleworth Moor; rain, high winds and poor visibility are frequently encountered. At Oldham Mountain Rescue Team, we have seen a huge increase in the people we have had to assist in the Birchen Clough/ Raven Stones (Trinnacle) area.
“In 2021, of the 50 incidents we attended, 7 were in that area, with 3 of those occasions involving serious, potentially life changing injuries. One of the common spots is in the vicinity of Greenfield Waterfall, which is compounded by the lack of mobile phone signal in the gully.This means that it is not always possible to contact emergency services when they are required.It is almost a pre-requisite of visiting the Trinnacle that the hiker gets a photo of themselves on top of the pillar, but please use caution; it can be slippery when wet, and extremely exposed when windy.”
Although Imran’s dramatic rescue from the Trinnacle last February was one of the most-reported accidents due to the severity of his injuries, many people struggle with the harsh terrain. Nearly three weeks ago, on March 27, OMRT were called out to Birchen Clough after a man fell down a bank next to the waterfall, needing to be winched into a coastguard helicopter before being transferred into an ambulance to be taken to hospital. Two women also had to be airlifted to hospital in Sheffield in January after falling from the edge near the Trinnacle.
OMRT have recommended people planning on heading into the hills:
- Check the route before leaving . Ensure it’s within your capabilities and that you have enough daylight left to finish. Also, let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back, especially if you’re heading out on your own.
- Take the right kit . Make sure you have appropriate footwear to manage the terrain, and pack some waterproofs and spare warm clothing in case the weather turns. A map and compass, alongside knowledge of how to use them, can also be very useful – as can a torch.
- Check the weather . If conditions don’t look great, be prepared to cut your route short or even postpone the trip entirely.
- Fully charge your phone . Although it won’t always be useable in all areas, making sure you have a fully charged phone to contact the emergency services is vital.
If something does go wrong and you find yourself needing help in the hills, dial 999 and ask for police and then mountain rescue. Some details such as an exact location – preferably an OS grid reference found via a map or a free app OS Locate – the name and age of the casualty and nature of any injuries, illnesses, or pre-existing health conditions, and the number of people in your party are all very helpful for teams coming to help.