A COURAGEOUS climber braved sub-zero temperatures and scaled one of England’s highest mountains to rescue dogs belonging to a complete stranger.

Yet modest mountaineer Scott Pilling, of Horwich, does not regard himself as a hero.

“I’m not a dog-owner myself but I know how much pets mean to people, so it just seemed the right thing to do,” he said.

He sprang into action after spotting a Facebook appeal about two dogs that had been missing on Helvellyn in the Lake District for two days.

Loading his car with ropes, crampons and ice axes, Mr Pilling made the 94-mile journey from his Bank Meadow home to Cumbria on Tuesday.

It took the 37-year-old coach builder almost two hours to make his ascent through the ice and snow, braving 60-degree inclines.

Believing the dogs were most likely to be in one of two valleys, Mr Pilling scaled Swirral Edge to get a better view.

But once at the top, he spotted two faint dots on an adjoining ridge.

Mr Pilling borrowed a fellow climber’s binoculars to take a closer look and was amazed when the two dogs came into focus.

His adrenaline levels were as high as the 3000ft mountain when the dogs responded to his calls and whistles.

“I couldn’t believe it. If they’d been there much longer they would not have survived,” he said.

“The smaller dog was covered in ice, even though it was clear that the larger dog, a German Shepherd, was trying to shield it from the elements. It was amazing to see.”

It was no straightforward rescue because the dogs were located beneath an overhang of snow and ice, known as a cornice.

“I was worried that the cornice might collapse and kill the dogs so, with the help of a guy called Nigel and three off-duty firemen, we dug a slope next to the cornice and took turns lowering ourselves down with ropes to reach the dogs,” said Mr Pilling.

“They were too weak to bark and could only whimper. The smaller one, a mongrel called Cash, needed to be cuddled and rubbed as he was so cold.”

Mr Pilling had had the foresight to buy an extra sandwich for the dogs from the village of Glenridding before scaling the mountain.

But Lilah, the German Shepherd, was clearly in the mood for something more meaty and, rather ungratefully, took a bite of Mr Pilling’s hand instead.

“It didn’t hurt because I was wearing gloves, and it was understandable because she was obviously in a highly anxious state,” he said.

The dogs had become separated from their owner, Colette Kilroy, during a walk.

The 27-year-old Liverpudlian said she was overwhelmed by Mr Pilling’s actions and could not thank him enough.

The drama was all good experience for Mr Pilling, who took up mountaineering three years ago.

He said: “It’s my ambition to climb the highest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents.”