A climber’s 8m fall meant a rescue team had to haul him up a Northcliff precipice using ropes and pulleys in a two-hour rescue.
Ed’s Note: It did not take 2 hours to perform the 8 meter haul (the haul took approximately 30 minutes, with the drive to the accident scene taking approximately 2 hours).
He was unable to move due to a leg injury after falling down a cliff near the water tower at about 5pm on Thursday, and had to be rescued by a team made up of paramedics and the Mountain Club of South Africa’s (MCSA) Search and Rescue team.
“We literally had to haul him up the cliff face,” said MCSA Search and Rescue member Dean van der Merwe.
However, it’s unclear exactly how the man – who is believed to have been hiking up the cliff – fell.
The rescuers also couldn’t give more detail on his injuries, due to confidentiality.
“I assume he lost his balance or lost his grip,” said Van der Merwe.
This part of the cliff is a common amateur climbing and hiking path and is made up of sheer drops, steep angles and walking paths.
“It took two hours to get him to the ambulance because of the terrain,” Van der Merwe said.
Andrew Sheahan, a paramedic from the Search and Rescue unit, said the climber “seemed all right” when they arrived. “He was not critical, but he needed to be hospitalised,” said Sheahan.
He is currently being treated at Netcare’s Milpark Hospital. “It was quite a steep cliff face down (to where he lay).”
The team first had to secure the injured man on a stretcher with a “vacuum mattress” which prevents the injured person from moving around and thus limits further injuries.
“He’s not going to be up and running today,” said Van der Merwe.
“We set up a couple of anchors on rocks on the upper side of the cliff,” he said.
Using these anchors and a “block and tackle” system of pulleys, the team attached ropes to the stretcher and began the rescue.
“If there’s something that fails, there’s always a back-up,” said Van der Merwe, who explained that the main rope was orange, while the back-up was yellow.
A “jockey” had to hold on to the stretcher in order to pull it away from the cliff face to ensure that it was not bouncing around or causing more injuries to the climber.
“Effectively, it’s 200kg of weight that gets pulled up,” Van der Merwe said.
The block and tackle system helps to alleviate this weight but pulling up two men is “still grunt work”, said Van der Merwe.
Sheahan thanked the Life Flora Clinic and Netcare 911 paramedics, who also aided in the rescue.
Northcliff Climber Rescued