The 35-year-old explained that he had seriously injured himself and was so dazed that he couldn’t remember where he had been heading at the time of the fall. He also explained that he recognized that hypothermia had begun to set in. The rescuers only knew that he was somewhere between the Collado de la Carihuela and the Caldera mountain refuge.
They told him to hang up and phone 112 every thirty minutes and in the meantime the Servicio de Montaña de la Guardia Civil would organize and send out a 4-man rescue team.
The rescue control centre also got onto Cetursa (the company that runs the ski slops) to get them to send a specialized snow vehicle to meet the team at Borreguiles and to take them to the Collado de la Carihuela, which was to be the starting point of the search.
Each call the climber made was transferred immediately to the Guardia Civil. The race was on because it was obvious from the brief conversations each time that his state was worsening. Trying to keep him awake, the call-in times were reduced to every 15 minutes, despite the drain on his phone battery.
The also got him to keep his head-mounted torch pointing towards what he thought was the direction of the Carihuela to help locate him. Remember that after dark rescues have to be carried out on foot as no air units can be used.
The team located him at 23.00h in the Paso de los Machos in the Río Veleta Valley at some 2,800 metres altitude. They immediately set about reducing his sever hypothermia with rescue equipment.
They also established phone contact with a doctor to instruct them on how to immobilize his neck/back injury with splints because they had to get him secured to a stretcher for a descent using ropes to the Collado de la Carihuela, where the doctor was waiting in the snow vehicle.
All told, it took another five hours of arduous work to lower the man to the waiting vehicle owing to the distance and height involved – we’re talking about an extensive and very steep section of mountainside.
The vehicle got him back to the ski-station village where an ambulance was waiting to get him to the main Granada Hospital.
(News: Sierra Nevada, Granada, Andalucia)