A 14-MONTH-OLD baby has became the youngest person to be rescued from England's highest mountain.

A mother and father set out with their son and his five-year-old brother to conquer 3,210ft Scafell Pike in the Lake District at midday on Monday and reached the summit four hours later.

But they got lost on the way down and found themselves in the treacherous Piers Gill, stranded in low cloud above sheer 200ft drops.

A team of 42 mountain rescuers was scrambled at 7.30pm and discovered them just before midnight.

The five-year-old boy was so cold and exhausted he had to be brought down on a stretcher. His young brother remained strapped into a waterproof papoose on his father's back and slept through much of the ordeal.

The manager of a nearby hotel prepared a room for them, which they reached at 4am yesterday.

The family's expedition horrified other climbers in the Lakes. Experienced climber George Wilson, 38, of Lancashire, was about to set out from the foot of the mountain early yesterday morning.

He said: "It's insane to take small children up Scafell. It's incredibly irresponsible and put other people's lives at risk.

"Scafell is not to be taken lightly by anyone at this time of year, even the most experienced climber.

"But to take two little kids, including a baby, up there is just sheer madness. Thank God they were found safe."

Wasdale Mountain Rescue team leader Julian Carradice had 19 members on the mountain. There were also 14 from Duddon and Furness Mountain Rescue Team and nine from Keswick, along with two search dogs.

Mr Carradice said: "The baby boy was the youngest person we have rescued.

"If people are going to take children up mountains like that they have to take responsibility for getting them down safely.

"They need a plan, a back-up plan, a means of finding shelter and to have made proper preparations before setting off.

"This family didn't leave themselves much time to get to the top and back before darkness fell.

"It is the highest mountain in England and they managed to get to the peak at about 4pm, which is pretty good for a five-year-old.

"But they hadn't left enough time to get back down before darkness fell and the conditions were poor anyway with low cloud.

"The couple found themselves lost in there in poor visibility with two very young children in the dark. It must have been very frightening.

"Thankfully they had spoken to some other climbers near the top and were due to be following them back down.

"When they did not, the other group raised the alarm, for which everyone can be very grateful."

Mr Carradice added:"When we reached them they were cold and frightened.

"The baby was as wrapped up in about seven layers of clothing and was in the papoose, which was waterproof and had a hood over the top.

"His brother was causing a little more concern. He was on foot and little ones of that age don't have tremendous reserves of energy.

"He had been on the mountain over 12 hours and was cold and exhausted.

"The best way to deal with him was to wrap him up warm, strap him to a stretcher and carry him off.

"They were embarrassed, very grateful and pleased to get to their beds safe and sound. It was a massive relief to everyone that we found them all safe."

The family, who come from Cornwall, are staying in the Lake District during the half term break.