Cape Town – Peninsula Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) staff were engaged in a 13-hour, all-night rescue mission on Table Mountain, above Camps Bay, for a 32-year-old male tourist from Iceland that ended early this morning.
The fading light on Monday as well as the very stiff south-easterly wind had ruled out a helicopter rescue for the Icelandic tourist and a technical rope rescue operation was required.
The WSAR said it was activated at 5.22pm after receiving a call from a member of the public who had heard someone shouting for assistance from the area above their house in Camps Bay, where the urban edge interfaces with the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).
The tourist was only reached at 1.48am, with most of the rescue team only reaching the Lower Cable Station at 4.30am.
The WSAR said "this gentleman can count himself extremely lucky. He had survived a fall of approximately 20 metres and landed on a ledge just bigger than a double bed, with a clear drop of about 80 metres 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 and suffered no serious injuries."
The WSAR commended the experienced rescue climbers, who had to negotiate very dangerous and unstable terrain, steep drop-offs, sheer cliff faces and the danger of rock falls in the dark. They had to abseil about 300 metres over multiple stages in order to reach and recover the hiker.
The initial search area was plotted to be the section of the TMNP below the Pipe Track and above the residential line.
"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," the WSAR said.
"An extensive search of the area was conducted with the assistance of the local Neighbourhood Watch and other agencies.
"There was a very stiff south-easterly wind blowing at the time, and it was later learnt that the sounds of the distress calls were being carried down to the urban area, from a different location much higher up the slope.
"The cries for help were reliably placed to be emanating from a steep section of the mountain, just below the Upper Cable Station.
"Using an international cellphone number it was confirmed that the person in distress was a 32-year-old male visitor from Iceland. He was able to guide a search team in a 4×4 along a jeep track to a position directly below him.
"Our rescue climbers were asked to respond to the Lower Cable Station, where the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway company had agreed to make just one attempt to send up a car, since the wind had already exceeded their normal operational conditions.
"By 20h38 a rapid response team had docked at the Upper Cable Station from where they began to make multiple abseils towards the patient.
"By this time the daylight had completely faded and it was then that the rescuers could actually pinpoint the position of the gentleman when he used the light of his cellphone to create a visual reference.
"A second rescue team ascended via the India Venster route, while members who happened to be training close by also made their way to a point above the stranded hiker.
"By 01h48 the first rescue climber had reached the patient, 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 took the remaining equipment and ropes, retraced their access route to Kloof Corner Ridge and then down the India Venster route to end up at the Lower Cable Station at about 04h30 this morning."
Also on Monday, the WSAR was called to assist a 50-year-old local female hiker at 8.51am who had reportedly suffered a leg injury while walking in Newlands Forest below the Contour Path. She was easily located and had badly sprained her ankle.