Rescue team frees man trapped for 17 hours - wedged in a mountain crack

29 December 2022 | From Arrive Alive

• Rescuers free hiker trapped for 17-hours in a cliff-side chimney
• Outdoor-lovers urged to exercise caution as hikers flock to popular trails
• Emergency contact number: 021 937 0300 and the #IAmWildernessSafe campaign can help promote safety awareness

Dedicated teams of professionals and volunteers from Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) successfully mounted three mountain rescues on Wednesday 28 December 2022.


A hiker was safely rescued after a 17-hour ordeal on a remote mountain peak, in which he was trapped in a mountain crack – barely able to breathe.

The two gentlemen had lost their way while hiking near Nuwerust Farm in the Cederberg. They had decided to attempt to descend the peak by climbing down a series of narrow “chimneys” – a mountaineering term used to describe narrow chutes or cracks.

One of the hikers became lodged in a chimney late on Tuesday afternoon and was unable to free himself.

After a sleepless night constricted in the narrow chimney, the men were able to flag down passing rock climbers who alerted the local emergency services.

A WSAR team on board the Western Cape Department of Health EMS / Air Mercy Service (AMS) rescue helicopter were flown to the Cederberg to assist two hikers stuck on a remote peak.

Once on scene, the rescue team had to abseil down to the hikers. The team then assessed the hiker lodged in the chimney, before building a technical rope system to assist them in freeing the stuck hiker.

One of the rescuers noted: “The man was just able to stand on his toes in the bottom of the chimney, but his chest was constricted to the point where he was only able to draw small breaths.”

WSAR teams hauled him up to the ledge above before the patients and team were safely extracted by helicopter.

The patients were flown to a nearby landing zone before being handed over to a waiting medical team for further assessment.


On Wednesday morning a 25-year-old gentleman from Mpumalanga, fell and injured himself on Lions Head. He was descending above the staples when he slipped and fell. Unable to proceed, a call for help was made to the emergency number.

A WSAR team on board the Western Cape Department of Health EMS /AMS rescue helicopter was hoisted down to his position. He was assessed, before being packaged into a stretcher and hosted up into the helicopter.

He was flown to a nearby landing zone and handed over to an ambulance, before being transported to hospital.


Teams were dispatched to assist a member of a local hiking group, after he injured his knee while descending from the Elephant’s Eye Cave above Silvermine.

He was assisted down the trail to a nearby vehicle before being driven back to his vehicle.


According to a spokesperson for Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR), David Nel, the more popular trails are likely to see an increase in the number of hikers after the Christmas weekend. 

“It’s not uncommon for the number of hikers on popular trails to increase over this time. We urge hikers to be patient, keep to the trails and avoid the temptation to take short-cuts or overtake other hikers.

“We appeal to all mountain users to plan appropriately, avoid hiking in the hottest hours of the day, carry enough water and save our emergency contact number 021 937 0300 to their phones.

“We ask that all wilderness enthusiasts help us by sharing the emergency contact number - and share our posts on the #IAmWildernessSafe campaign,” Nel said. 

•             Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) is a network of government agencies, and civilian volunteer organisations, who partner in search and rescue.

Photos by Janke Lochner and Brent Russel

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