Athletes rescued from freezing Berg mountains

2008-04-21 00:00

THE weekend’s cold front almost proved fatal for three athletes who had to be airlifted from the Drakensberg yesterday.

Gina Walsh, Nic Shaw and Deon Chiesman were attempting to complete the Grand Traverse: Maloti- Drakensburg Transfrontier Challenge in a record-breaking three days, having started on Saturday.

Breaking the four-day record entailed maintaining a five-kilometre-an-hour jogging pace to cover 230 km with minimal supplies and lightweight gear.

But 28 hours and 84 km into their journey, heavy snowfall set in.

With poor visibility and slippery terrain, “we knew that we would never make the record and that we could go no further”, said Shaw.

“We took shelter in a cave,” said Chiesman.

Shaw had twisted his ankle moments earlier and was in pain. Snow and sleet were blowing into the cave. They were wet and cold.

“It was a very long and very cold night. We left our tracking devices outside the cave hoping for them to rescue us,” said Shaw.

Helicopters from Squadron 15 of the SA Air force and rescue climbers from the Mountain Club of SA (MCSA) were sent in early yesterday morning. At 2 pm, after four attempts, they managed to land and rescue the frozen adventurers.

“It was very exciting, but also quite scary.

“We have to say a big thank you to the MCSA and the Air force for all their hard work,” said Shaw, sitting in the pub at Cathedral Peak Hotel with a cold beer in front of a warm fireplace.

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