Trapped hikers rescued from flooded river gorge, Witels, Western Cape
A group of hikers has been rescued, after massive weekend downpours flooded a river gorge in the Western Cape. The hikers had started their hike on Sunday 19 March on the Witels hike - a favourite wilderness “kloofing” hike-and-swim, between Worcester and Ceres, where hikers swim, wade and hike down the canyon and exit below the Michell's Pass. According to their plans, they were due to exit the canyon on Thursday, 23 March 2023. But after the weekend’s torrential downpours, the group alerted family members via satellite phone that the river level had risen dramatically and they were delayed. As seriously, they were running low on food. Two friends of the trapped hikers then attempted to assist, by swimming across the Breede Rivier, below Michell's Pass, to attempt to access the group and bring them food. WSAR received a call for assistance on Saturday afternoon and a multi-disciplinary team of 22 rescuers was dispatched to locate and rescue the stranded hikers.
On Saturday evening, as dark fell, the team was prevented from entering the kloof by the raging waters exiting the Witels River.
At first light on Sunday morning, a group of more than 30 rescuers readied themselves, before a small team was flown into the kloof to locate the stranded group of hikers.
At the same time, SAPS WPDS and SAPS K9 SAR located and safely brought the two hikers back across the swollen Breede River in inflatable crafts.
The team on board the Western Cape Department Health EMS/Air Mercy Service (AMS) rescue helicopter located the group of eight hikers and rescuers were hoisted down to the hikers.
All eight hikers and their equipment were hoisted up into the helicopter and flown to a landing zone at the Winterberg Mountain Inn.
Incident commander John Davids extended thanks to the rescue services who responded and praised the collaboration required to execute a successful rescue under such challenging conditions.
WSAR spokesperson David Nel, said, “We would like to say a big thank you to the Winterberg Mountain Inn for hosting and looking after our team members. We would also like to thank the Witzenberg Guest Farm for kindly providing accommodation for rescuers on Saturday evening. These partners rallied to our assistance - a valuable team effort."
Photos provided by Fredy Mohorich, Rob Burger and David Nel
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