Falling boulder smashes three hikers’ legs, Stellenbosch
Three hikers all suffered broken legs after a boulder smashed down a mountain. A group of seven local hikers set out on Saturday morning, 4 February 2023, into the mountain kloofs above Banhoek, outside Stellenbosch. After a night in the mountains, they were returning via Volstruiskloof on Sunday, hiking, abseiling, jumping and wading down the deep river gorge.
After stopping for lunch on Sunday afternoon, the hikers noticed a large troop of baboons was above them. Members of the party later reported the baboons appeared agitated and curious about the humans, far beneath them. Not too concerned, the group continued to descend the kloof.
Two members of the group had completed a 55m abseil from a pool in the middle of a waterfall when a boulder, approximately 60kgs in weight, struck the small ledge the remaining five hikers were standing on. The boulder exploded on impact sending shards of razor-sharp rock “shrapnel” flying horizontally through the air.
Three hikers were struck by the lethal shards of rock and suffered broken legs, with one suffering an open leg wound. Another hiker was struck by a piece of rock and knocked over an exposed edge, but was prevented from falling by a safety rope connected to his harness.
More rocks continued to rain down from up high. The hikers believed the falling rocks were being dislodged by the baboons above.
The hiking party huddled together, calming the injured among them and warming them with sleeping bags. All while seeking shelter from the falling rocks. Despite limited cell phone range, a hiker managed to make an SOS call.
The Western Cape Department of Health EMS / Air Mercy Service (AMS) helicopter was mobilised, with a team from Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) on board.
Once on the scene in the mountain gorge, the WSAR team were lowered down to the patients on the small ledge. The more seriously injured patient was packed into a stretcher and flown to a nearby landing zone. The remaining two patients were hoisted from the ledge in rescue harnesses. All three were transported to hospital by ambulance for further treatment.
Rescue team members remained on standby while the remaining four hikers made their way out of the kloof.
The two uninjured hikers were commended by the rescue team for “remaining calm, and doing a fantastic job calming and looking after the injured”.
According to one of the uninjured patients, “This was the third time I’ve been down this kloof and the first time I’ve seen or heard any baboons up there. I don’t believe that the baboons were acting aggressively; the area is full of loose rock and debris. It is likely that the rocks were dislodged when the baboons were following us on the ledges above.”
The rescue coordinator commended the rescue helicopter crew for exceptionally skilful flying.
WSAR spokesperson Johann Marais said, “We wish the patients a speedy recovery. We ask that all wilderness enthusiasts help us by sharing the emergency contact number - 021 937 0300 - and share our posts on the #IAmWildernessSafe campaign,” Marais said.
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