A EXPERIENCED mountaineer who plunged 600ft down an icy Lake District mountain has spoken of his miraculous survival – and the brilliant work of the mountain rescue team who got him to safety.

Fifty-three-year-old Richard Tiplady – an experienced and well-equipped fell walker – fell from near the 2,927ft summit of Pillar mountain in the western Lake District, his terrifying plummet being halted by a wall of snow debris just 20ft from the edge of a 200ft cliff.

He sustained a broken neck, three deep gashes to the head, and a chipped bone in his elbow. But he is expected to make a full recovery.

Speaking from his bed at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, Richard told of his desperate attempts to slow his fall and protect his body after he slipped on a hidden patch of ice just 15ft from the summit last Thursday afternoon.

He had been on the mountain with a friend, and was fully equipped for the wintry conditions, his kit including crampons, an ice axe, first aid equipment, and a so-called ‘bothy bag’ for keeping warm in an emergency.

Richard has studied mountain-craft and knew what to do in the emergency.

As he began falling, he tried to ram his axe into the ice, but his body collided with a rock, causing him to violently spin away.

“It all happened in a fraction of a second,” said Richard, who trains vicars for the The Scottish Episcopal Church. “In a situation like that, you know you are not going to stop; you’re going to be stopped.

“I had to be utterly focused.

“As you fall, there are only two things you can do: firstly, you have to try to keep your feet first; and the second thing is that you must try to slow yourself down – by pressing your arms down.”

Eventually, after hitting several rocks as he fell, Richard came to an abrupt halt as his body smashed into an avalanche debris field. Had he fallen another 20ft, he would have plunged over the edge and almost certainly died.

Covered in blood, and dazed, he put into action his emergency training, treating his wounds, blowing his whistle repeatedly for help, climbing into his bothy bag, and using an app on his phone to summon help. His friend clambered down to help him.

Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team, the Coastguard, and the Great North Air Ambulance did a fantastic job, he said. His rescuers were winched onto Pillar’s summit, from where they abseiled down. Richard was airlifted to hospital in Carlisle.

A committed Christian, Richard said: “I felt protected.” Of his rescuers, he said: “They were so professional and caring. They were also non-judgemental. As they treated me, one said the reason he joined the team was he was once rescued.” After corrective neck surgery, Richard is now recovering at his home near Glasgow.