Lone tree stops German tourist's 25m plunge down front of Table Mountain

05 December 2019 - 17:36 By Dave Chambers
A German tourist survived a 25m fall below the Devil's Peak saddle on December 4 2019.
A German tourist survived a 25m fall below the Devil's Peak saddle on December 4 2019.
Image: Terry Shean

A German tourist who fell 25m on the front face of Table Mountain was saved by a lone tree, rescuers said on Thursday.

The 47-year-old, who sustained suspected multiple fractures to his leg, arm, ribs and possibly his spine and other parts of his body, was airlifted to hospital after a “very technical” stretcher journey to the top of the mountain, said Wilderness Search and Rescue spokesperson Johan Marais.

He said the alarm was raised on Wednesday afternoon by a second German who said his hiking partner was clinging to a ledge after a “huge fall” above the Devil’s Peak saddle.

“This section of the mountain is known to be a more technical area with steep scrambles and routes that require rope plus safety aids,” said Marais.

A strong southeaster ruled out the use of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service in the rescue, he said, but rescuers asked the SA Air Force for help and a helicopter took off from 22 Squadron at Ysterplaat.

“By this time there were approximately 35 volunteer and paid professional rescuers in the field,” said Marais.

“The patient was stabilised and secured in a rescue stretcher, after which he was hoisted into the helicopter and flown to the dedicated landing zone at Groote Schuur Hospital.

“Here he was transferred to a road ambulance which transported him to a private medical facility for further treatment. The rest of the rescue party safely escorted the hiking partner of the injured tourist off the mountain.”

Marais said the tourists were trying to ascend the mountain by a lesser-used route and the terrain proved too challenging.

“They tried to retrace their way when one of them slipped and fell approximately 25m. He landed on a narrow ledge against a lone tree which prevented him from falling over the edge.

“This most certainly saved him from much more severe injuries or worse.”

Marais implored visitors to the mountain not to attempt unfamiliar routes and to use registered guides.