It was a cry for help carried by the wind that set in motion a dramatic, all-night rescue effort to save a tourist on Table Mountain who plummeted 20m onto a ledge barely the size of a double bed.
Below the ledge was a drop of more than 25 stories down the face of the cliff.
The drama started just after 5pm on Monday when a resident of Camps Bay heard a person shouting for help above their house.
“The calls for help could have been from a mugging victim or that of a person who had suffered as a result of a more serious crime, so extra urgency was factored into this response,” said Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) in a post on their Facebook page.
An extensive search revealed that the distress calls were being carried to Camps Bay by a strong south-easterly wind from the slopes of the mountain, just below the upper cable car station.
“The fading light as well as the strong wind had ruled out a helicopter rescue. It was then apparent that a very technical rope rescue operation was required. The person in distress was a 32-year-old male from Iceland. He was able to guide a search team in a 4×4 along a jeep track to a position directly below him,” said WSAR.
With the wind exceeding their normal operational conditions, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway company agreed to make a single attempt to ferry a rescue team to the top of the mountain in a cable car.
Rescuers docked at the upper cable car station and were able to abseil towards the stranded tourist who used the light of his cellphone to show where he had fallen. They had to negotiate dangerous and unstable terrain, steep drop offs, sheer cliff faces and potential rock falls in the dark, abseiling about 300 meters over multiple stages to reach the hiker.
“By 1:48am the first rescue climber had reached the [man], and after an initial assessment he was secured into a harness and lowered down to the base of Cairn Buttress from where he was assisted to walk down to the waiting vehicles by four rescuers.”
The rest of the rescue team gathered their equipment and arrived at the lower cable station at 4:30am on Tuesday.
“This gentleman can count himself extremely lucky,” said WSAR. “He had survived a fall of approximately 20m and landed on a ledge just bigger than a double bed, with a clear drop of about 80m (more than 25 stories) below him on the face of the cliff.
“The wind made it possible for his distress calls to be heard down in the urban area. He had a functioning cellphone with 63% battery life that he could use. He had suffered no serious injuries.”
WSAR safety tips for hiking on Table Mountain:
- Take extra care when walking in a downhill direction as most knee and ankle injuries occur during these times
- Always hike in a group
- Make sure that at least one person is familiar with your intended route
- Carry a hard copy of a Peter Slingsby map in your party
- Familiarise yourself with the various grading of hiking routes
- Choose trails that are within the capabilities of the members of your party.
Source: TMG DIGITAL