Icelandic Climber in South Africa “Luckiest Man Alive”

A 32-year-old Icelandic tourist who survived a 20 m [65 ft] fall on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa is “the luckiest man alive,” says the head of the local Search and Rescue team. “CapeTalk” reports that the Icelander was climbing the mountain, fell, and landed on a very small outcrop on a cliff ledge “the size of a double bed.” Luckily, his cries for help were heard in the suburb of Camps Bay, which is located at the base of the mountain, and he was rescued that same evening.

Table Mountain is a prominent, flat-topped mountain that towers above Cape Town. It is 1,085 m [3,558 ft] at its highest point and is a popular tourist attraction, as well as a notable destination for hikers.

Roy van Schoor, the incident commander for the Wilderness Search and Rescue team, said in a radio interview that “the whole lot of things that came together to contribute to his being alive today are absolutely incredible.” For one, he landed on a ledge, instead of plummeting a full 80 m [262 ft]. For two, the wind direction was blowing in just the right direction so that his cries for help were actually heard by someone below the mountain. Then there was the fact that the search team, which had to repel 300 m [984 ft] in strong winds to reach the man, were able to complete the rescue at night and also remove the man safely. “He’s literally…uh, the luckiest man alive,” repeated Roy with a laugh.

The Icelander was hiking alone on the mountain and, like many visitors to Cape Town, didn’t “understand the dangers of the mountain” remarked the interviewer. In fact, when discussing the Cape Town incident, Roy echoed the sentiments that are often expressed by Icelandic Search and Rescue teams when talking about rescues on mountains around Iceland.

“The big problem is that tourists, they come into Cape Town, and they might have climbed back home—the Icelander is quite possibly a climber in Iceland—and they see, ‘ah, there’s a beautiful mountain that’s like, right on top of the city, and think, let’s go!’ […] Table Mountain being extremely accessible with many, many access points, they decide to go on their own, and going down is a serious problem and we…we battle, we do battle with that sort of a thing: many, many accidents involving tourists.”

Roy advocated for better informational signage on the mountain that could advise tourists of which routes are easy and which are difficult and also added that “hotels can also help in public safety awareness.”

Although the Icelander was brought down from the mountain safely, there was no further information on his condition at time of writing.

The full radio interview about the rescue can be listened to (in English) here.