Injured Berg hiker airlifted after 21-hour ledge ordeal

2010-04-06 00:00

A WOMAN was forced to spend more than 21 hours alone on a ledge in the Berg with a broken leg when Sunday afternoon’s storm prevented rescuers from reaching her.

Annie Reitz (49) was finally airlifted from a ravine near Monk’s Cowl after 8 am yesterday, after she had slipped during a hike and fallen about 20 metres at around 11 am on Sunday.

Reitz and a companion, Herman Kuhne, both members of the Newcastle branch of the Mountain Club of SA, were hiking from Keith Bush Camp through the gap between Monk’s Cowl and Champagne Castle.

The grass was wet and slippery.

“We took that route as we were trying to avoid a deep gorge on the other side of Cowl Cave, when she slipped and fell. I tried my best to help her, but later on I realised that the only thing to do was to seek help.

“I left everything with her, including a tent, and started a long walk to an area where I could get cellphone reception,” explained Kuhne.

He said he walked more than three kilometres before he could get reception on Shada ridge.

Kuhne managed to get through to Monk’s Cowl at around 1 pm.

“The area of the incident is very steep and rugged and the clouds were moving in very fast.

“By the time assistance was sought from the SA Air Force it was clear that [the rain] would be coming down hard. I became emotional, but knowing that Annie was aware of the situation brought some relief.

“The rescue organisers hoped to get the Oryx chopper for its winching capabilities,” Kuhne said.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Jeff Gaisford said the aircraft from the Durban air base could only get as far as Mooi River before being turned back by the storm.

“We heard about this late in the afternoon and by then the opportunity to get rescuers to the injured hiker was missed. The difficult decision was then taken to leave her where she was until the next day,” said Gaisford.

Yesterday the SAAF again raised some concerns about the weather and a local pilot from Dragon Peaks air force base, Brett Tungay, was asked to airlift Reitz to safety.

Tungay said Reitz was lucky to have been left with a tent.

“I … could only get to the spot way after 8 am and lifted her to Dragon Peaks.

“We managed to get a stretcher down to put her on. She was in a stable condition and having that tent saved her,” Tungay said.

Reitz’s leg was operated on yesterday, but details were not available.

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