Almost two weeks after he went missing in the vast mountains of KwaZulu-Natal’s Drakensberg, 25-year-old Mark Grobler has still not been found.
Members of the Gauteng-based hiker’s family said in a statement at the weekend that they were “heartbroken”.
“Mark was an engineering geologist on the brink of a promising career. He was passionate about the Drakensberg and enjoyed hiking there,” the family said.
“As a family, we are heartbroken. We have beautiful memories. We would like to thank all the rescuers involved in the search. They put in an enormous effort.”
Steve Cooke, of the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) KZN Section, said yesterday that another search at the weekend had not turned up any results.
“The search team received further information from a hiking party that had ascended the escarpment, from Mnweni Valley. This indicated that Mark had been in Twins Cave and intended to hike the Bell Traverse and return,” Cooke said.
He added that a helicopter was in the area to recover an SAPS aircraft that had crashed there during last week’s search.
“This made it possible to deploy three SAPS K9 Search and Rescue teams and four MCSA rescue team members,” he said. “The teams overnighted in Twins Cave, which enabled them to do a thorough search of the area around Twins Cave, the Bell Traverse and the Mlambonja Pass. Unfortunately no trace of Mark was found.”
Grobler was last seen on Boxing Day, when he embarked on what was meant to be a four-day and three-night hike.
He had planned to ascend via the Mlambonja valley, starting from the road head at Cathedral Peak Hotel. But on December 29, when Grobler had not yet returned, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife initiated a search.
After five days of searching, the authorities last week said they had to accept that “the probability of finding Grobler alive is now very small”.
In light of this, the search operations were scaled back.
They are, however, still acting on any new information they receive.