Dragon's Wrath 2019
Dave wrote: This is very sad to read. Commendations to MCSA Search & Rescue, EKZNW, and SAPS for their dedication.
Perhaps it wouldn't be indiscreet to offer a reflection on judgement here, because presumably, having ascended on the path, she must have known she was off track on the way down. A similar thing happened to me descending Tsepeng Pass, when I knew that I'd missed the exit onto the slopes (because of mist) but figured I could carry on down the gully. At a certain point I saw that I couldn't and that I'd have to re-ascend, yet I still felt a reluctance to back-track and was still eyeing the evidently treacherous, wet ledges in the hope that some overlooked route would suddenly appear. And I think this risky thinking, especially when one is tired - that if I can just get down this one obstacle, rather than go all the way back up, then the descent will be so much quicker and easier - this risky thinking can be a dangerous psychological trap, particularly if one is also disorientated because of mist or darkness as well as feeling anxious or fearful. We can't know exactly what happened here, but my heart goes out to her.
Very well said. Whatever the reason it is very sad to read this sort of thing and yes mistakes can easily happen when we're tired. Having personally been down that gulley at night (we had been hiking for 11 or 12 hours already that day) I can attest that the boulder choke (one massive rock the width of the gulley) well down the gulley is massive. I could not even get to the edge of it to shine my torch over because it is that steep (and slippery), so we tossed stones over and judged by the time taken about a 10 metre drop, maybe more. Above this is already a very steep section required scrambling down the true left. Andy Birkett is as far as I know the only person to have gone beyond this boulder choke (with ropes) and said, never again. He had a Wordpress site and the article was called Mountain Madness but the blog is no longer. It also had pictures and their descent was during daylight and also, in error. When I posted that I had missed the turn off a few VE members also noted that they had missed the turnoff before heading down Grays. My only hope is that anyone reading this can take extra care to not repeat what some of us have done.
Below is how far we got down. The GPS not getting good readings down there:
Please login or register to view the image attached to this post.
We shouldn't assume that she continued straight down the gully.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
RESCUE OF HIKER WHO FELL AT THE MONTE-AUX -SOURCES CHAIN LADDERS.
The mountain rescue team from the KZN Section of the Mountain Club of SA, received a call for help at 5pm on Saturday 7 December 2019 from the father of a hiker who had fallen while negotiating the chain ladders in the Monte-aux-Sources area in the northern Drakensberg. A joint Mountain Club, SA Air Force, Ezemvelo Wildlife and Westline aviation then carried out a rescue operation.
The father and adult son of 32 y.o.a. were on a day hike to the popular Tugela Falls area. The accident happened while descending the well-known chain ladders. They had climbed down the first set of ladders to a rough ledge area. While clambering to the next and final set of ladders the 32 year old hiker from Howick, fell 25m to the bottom. His father had to run far down the mountain before cell communication was possible. (It is probably the first ever serious accident on these ladders since their construction in the late 1960s.)
The Mountain Club immediately activated a local paramedic (who is also the Ezemvelo ranger), and also an Assistant Rescue Organiser and they were air lifted by private helicopter to a flat area above the patient. They then climbed down the ladders to give assistance.
The patient had multiple limb fractures and head injuries and was assisted through the night in cold conditions.
Early on Sunday morning an Oryx helicopter from the South African Air Force’s 15 Squadron in Durban, flew with 4 technical rescuers on board. A quick stop was made en route to pick up a vacuum mattress and heart monitor and then on to the accident scene. The MCSA members were then winched down to the patient, who was lying is a very narrow gully. After packaging the patient, he was hoisted into the aircraft and flown to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg.
"To those who are enthralled by mountains, their wonder is beyond all dispute. To those who are not, their allure is a kind of madness." - Mountain
Is there a set of protocols and procedures that could be written up for the members that we can have on our phone of who to contact, and what procedures would be that will followed to partially reduce stress during the waiting part of the emergency evacuation. The new windy maps app has got procedures for various situations which seems useful.
Obviously the time taken from incident to rescue will vary depending on if you have cel signal vs brisk use of legs to the nearest station and any inclement weather. I just wondered if an easy to follow flow diagram chart pdf of who to contact and the steps that are usually followed would help to get the correct information to the right people and would give those waiting some peace of mind during the process.