Having done more than a few mountain rescue's in my life, I knew it would only be a matter of time until such tims as I get a phone call for one in Namibia.
Yesterday was that day, at around 14:00 my phone rings and it's the Senior Ops manager of the Company I am currently employed by. She explained that a hiker on the Brandberg Mountain located on the north west of Namibia, went up the mountain and on the way down, slipped and broke his ankle.
I am advised that it will be an overnight stay on the mountain upon which we will then decide whether we will carry the patient down the mountain in the morning or fly him off with a helicopter. So, I get my stuff together and drive to the office to sort out the rest of what's needed for this operation. Getting there I am greeted by a Architect (obviously gay) and another Doctor. Both of them know the mountain and specifically the trail we will walking very well. I am also informed that we will have 10 local guides await us a small little town called Uis.
After having sorted out the equipment and medications like Morphine should the patient require it for pain, Adrenaline in case it's needed for bee stings, some Lidocaine to be used as a local anaesthetic. We get in the car, hiking gear, medical equipment and a Satellite phone for communications and take the 3 hour drive to the mountain side.
Long story short, we eventually arrive at the foot of the mountain and start our ascent at 21:50. The experienced people say it will be about a 3 hour hike to the location of the patient. Something I haven't done in about 5 years, none the less I was up for it. for about an hour 1 walked no problem at all enjoying the cold breeze and sipping away at my energy drink. As we start climbing, one of the local guides see eyes and alerts us to it. Everyone shines their headlights on it, and there it is, 10 meters away from us. A set of green eyes, just looking at us. The most experienced of the guides think it's a leopard seeing as leopard, cheetah and lion still roam free here.
Then, it makes a familiar "whoo hoo" call and flies off. So on we walk, knowing the patient has been laying on the mountain since 11:00 the morning and it gets seriously hot up here during the day. We have no idea how prepared the dude is, whether he still has food and water etc. With these thoughts we push on.
About 30 minutes I had to stop for a rest, my chest was wheezing (yes I am a smoker) my legs just would not go any more. This after having climbed about 250m solid rock at an angle of 45+ deg. Then I am informed that this is what I will be doing up to about 100m from the patient where the slope increases. My first thought at that point? "I am going to kick his other ankle off as well!" At this point the more experienced folks suggest I make camp so that we can meet up again when they are on their way down.
Being a "hard assed" person by nature I gave them the sat phone and said I will meet them at the patient. They push ahead while I catch my breath and two guides that stayed with me have a spliff. Yes, apparently Durban poison would be their brand of choice. We push on, climbing and climbing and climbing. Somewhere along the way I remember thinking "F@c nature and everything associated with it". Then the moon broke of the eastern side of the mountain. What an amazing view! Looking back to where we started, the site takes your breath away. I push on with the two guides doing their job, lying my way up. "Just past those rocks", "Just past that tree", "just past that rocky outcrop." Eventually at 02:45 we reach the patient, he's happy to see us, even though the more experienced and fitter people reached him just after 01:00.
I have a smoke (or the record, the strongest B&H No.1 ever) unroll my sleeping bag and just sleep on top of it. At 06:00 I am awoken by the ring of the sat phone, it's the office alerting me that the chopper will be inbound for the patient. At first I was seriously pissed that they would phone me simply to tell me that the chopper will take off at 07:00 and take 01:45min to reach us, then I see the sun rise. Suddenly, the trip up, the swearing, sweating and vomiting, blistered feet was well worth it.
Here I was sitting on the side of a mountain at an altitude of 1680m above sea level watching the African sun rise of the distant hills way below us. Another upside, I managed to shed 2kg on that walk last night.
Photo's to follow as soon as I have had some rest and feel slightly more human! Be safe out there!