File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Three hikers rescued from Table Mountain in 20-hour operation

By Staff Writer Time of article published Feb 24, 2020

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Cape Town – Rescuers undertook a 20-hour mission to retrieve three local hikers who became disorientated after the famous "tablecloth" engulfed the top of Table Mountain on Saturday.

The locals – a 51-year-old male and a 28-year-old man and woman – started their hike at 4.30am on Saturday, and six hours later Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) received a distress call asking for emergency rescue services to be activated as the cloud had rolled in.

“A rough position of the local hikers, two males and one female, was made using pictures that they were asked to take and forward to the incident commander. An incident command post (ICP) was set up at the lower cable station (LCS) on Tafelberg Road.

“From here the first team made their way up the mountain via the cable car in order to locate the party, which was stuck off the path on the western side of Table Mountain,” WSAR said in a statement.

“After abseiling down a distance, voice contact was made between the rescuers and the party.

"Since the rescuers were not close enough, a second team was dispatched to abseil down from a point which was closer above the location of the three hikers.

"At this point the weather deteriorated, with a decrease in visibility and a drop in temperature, as well as rain moving in.

"The wet conditions, the possibility of hypothermia and concerns about falling rocks were some of the hazards faced by both the stranded hikers as well as the rescue party. Due to these testing conditions, a safe extraction by helicopter was also ruled out,” WSAR said.

A second team began securing anchor points at a new position, and when they managed to obtain voice contact with the hikers, the rescuers learnt that a much longer rope and hauling systems were required.

A third team was then dispatched to carry additional technical equipment to the point at which the hauling system was being set up.

As a result of the adverse weather conditions and the fact that the cable way and rescue helicopter could not be used, the rescue effort was an extended one, lasting through the night.

By 6.45am on Sunday, the three hikers and a team of more than 20 rescuers were safely off the mountain.

WSAR has urged the public to make use of professional guides; to be familiar with the intended route they would like to take; to carry warm clothing, a map, whistle, extra food and water; and to choose a route suitable for all hikers.

Cape Times

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