Eleven rescued as hikers are injured, lost and stuck in Western Cape

21 August 2019 - 11:05 By Dan Meyer
Nine incidents in six days on some of the Cape's popular hiking trails ensured a busy week for Cape Town's rescue services.
Nine incidents in six days on some of the Cape's popular hiking trails ensured a busy week for Cape Town's rescue services.
Image: Claire Keeton

It was by chance that a trail runner passed a critically injured female hiker on Devil’s Peak, Cape Town.

The German-speaking trail runner made a life-saving emergency call that set in motion a rescue operation involving metro medical rescue technicians, rescue mountaineers, SANParks patrollers and an emergency airlift by helicopter.

The rescue, on Monday afternoon, was one of nine carried out in just six days as tourists and hikers got injured, stuck and lost on Table Mountain, Lion's Head, Devil's Peak and in a nature reserve in Somerset West.

It's been a busy few days for rescues in Cape Town, said Peninsula Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR).

Since August 16, search teams have helped with a range of issues, from disoriented to seriously injured hikers.

"A lone casualty hiker was discovered by chance when a male trail runner happened to pass the scene of the accident,” said WSAR of the rescue on Monday.

“There was a communication challenge, since the trail runner, who was German speaking, was unable to draw information from the injured lady. The extent of her injuries also resulted in her not being able to speak.

“When the helicopter arrived at Devil’s Peak it proceeded to insert a metro medical rescue technician, as well as a rescue climber. The patient, who was in a critical condition, was promptly packaged, hoisted into the helicopter and delivered to a nearby emergency landing zone. Here, she was handed to a waiting ambulance, which transported her to a medical facility for further treatment.”

In another rescue on Monday evening, a 35-year-old Brazilian tourist was discovered “painfully struggling down the trail” on Lion's Head. She was placed in a stretcher and carried down the path to a spot where she could be taken to safety in a 4x4 vehicle.

Meanwhile, an elderly woman who was injured while walking in the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West was picked up by helicopter on Sunday afternoon.

During the first rescue, on August 13, a party of two became disorientated and got lost while hiking on Table Mountain in dense cloud. They were found by a rescue party and taken to safety aboard the cable car.

Eleven people were rescued in nine incidents between August 13 and 19. Four had become lost, one stuck on a ledge and six were injured.

WSAR urged visitors using hiking trails to "not hike or trail run on their own, concentrate while descending a path to avoid knee and ankle injuries, save emergency numbers on cellphones and learn how to use the location pin [map] feature on your smartphone”.