Mountain rescuers say a runner who got lost in the Cairngorms wearing just shorts and a vest with no map or equipment is lucky to be alive.
Kevin Steenson was found 900 metres up the Cairngorms on Tuesday night after becoming lost in the dark and in sub-zero temperatures.
Dozens of rescuers spent more than five hours searching for the 25-year-old.
Yesterday he described his “relief” at being found after hours in the dark and cold – and thanked those who saved his life.
Mr Steenson, originally from Dumfries, said: “I could see a helicopter in the distance and I made my way towards it and then it took off. I was always trying to hear out for it and I decided to head up a hill.”
However, the terrain was difficult in the dark and Mr Steenson said he was also getting colder as the time passed, adding: “My hands were feeling numb. I was shaking. I tried to find shelter. I was a bit disorientated and was starting to slow down.”
Eventually he saw the flickering lights of the mountain rescue team and a flare was set off in response to his shouts. Guided by a second flare, Mr Steenson met up with the searchers.
He said: “I was relieved. Really relieved, happy and grateful.”
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He had been running with five others in the Cairngorms during an afternoon off from work at Abernethy Trust, near Aviemore, which provides outdoor activities.
Mr Steenson took a wrong turn and became separated from the party in the Lairig Ghru area, resulting in him being caught out in the dark with inadequate clothing and supplies.
His friends raised the alarm, and Cairngorm and Braemar Mountain Rescue Teams were called out. He was found in an area known as the Pools of Dee, with minor cuts and bruises.
Willie Anderson, leader of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, said the runner could have died if he had been left on the hills in conditions which plunged to -6C for another 20 minutes.
He said: “There was snow up there and some ice around, and the difference of going into the mountains in summer and winter really is night and day.
“You could get away with a mistake in the summer, but come this time of year if you have no equipment or you don’t know how to use it then the outcome could be rather grave.
“This boy was literally in his running shoes, shorts and T-shirt. He had no food, mobile phone, head torch, compass or map.
“He started wandering about in the dark and fell a couple of times, falling into a couple of burns and getting some cuts and bruises on his legs.
“He saw the rescue helicopter and tried climbing higher. But the higher he went, the colder he got. Our guys eventually found him at about 10:30pm, five hours after the callout.
“The search was hampered by mist, particularly for the chopper, but once found we walked him to below the mist level and he was airlifted. He was 900 metres up and it was certainly sub-zero, about -6C, with snow on the mountain tops.”
Mr Anderson added: “This is one remarkably lucky guy. On another day, with different weather conditions, he would be dead. Although it was cold, there was not a full-blown Cairngorm blizzard.
“However, he even admitted himself that he probably could only have kept going for another 20 minutes or so.”
More than 20 team members responded from the Cairngorm, Braemar and Aberdeen mountain rescue teams. They were joined by police, sniffer dogs, and search and rescue aircraft.
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