The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
The /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a desolate landscape with spectacular canyons and mountain passes. But for all their magnificence, these canyons with their sheer rock faces pose real dangers to the unwary hikers who like to test their mettle against the harsh elements.
The transfrontier park has two hiking trails where a number of hikers have had to be assisted because of injury. Most of these rescues have been by means of helicopter, which is extremely costly. Having to wait for a helicopter could also increase the risk of serious injury.
Joint mountain rescue training of park staff was therefore deemed essential by the transfrontier park’s management committee.
In September, staff underwent a week-long joint mountain rescue training. This was done amid great excitement, albeit with a sense of trepidation at the thought of having to ascend and descend the sheer cliff faces with nothing but ropes. The training was very intensive and included rope work, anchors, the uses of a mechanical advantage system and setting up a lifeline to protect them in dangerous terrain.
During the next two nerve-wracking days, staff had to put into practise what they’d learnt. It was with pride that they set up anchors, correctly placed rope protectors and then successfully descended and ascended a 40 m cliff into the canyon in groups of four. The following day they practised in the Fish River Canyon, where most of the real-life rescue work would occur. This was even more adrenaline-charged, as they then had to learn how to hoist up a person on a stretcher over a 60m drop. It was with much elation that the staff completed their joint training exercise.
The transfrontier park staff successfully completed the training, with the instructor being confident that they can now rescue someone in distress, while at the same time taking everyone else’s safety into account.