Tourist trapped in glacier crevasse rescued

04:40, Mar 08 2013
Crevasse rescue
HEADING TO HOSPITAL: The injured woman is put into the rescue helicopter to be flown to Christchurch Hospital.
Crevasse rescue
BACK ON SOLID GROUND: A German tourist, who was trapped in a crevasse overnight, arrives at the Franz Josef medical centre.
Crevasse rescue
LANDED: The injured tourist lands in Christchurch.
Crevasse rescue
TOUGH NIGHT: The injured German woman arrives in Christchurch after spending a night in freezing conditions in a crevasse near Fox Glacier.
Crevasse rescue
KEEPING WARM: South Westland Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader Marius Bron with the injured climber yesterday evening.
Crevasse rescue
FREEZING CONDITIONS: South Westland Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader Marius Bron reaches the injured German climber in the crevasse at 2854 metres near the summit of Glacier Peak yesterday evening.
Crevasse rescue
SNOWED IN: The crevasse on the west face of Glacier Peak. The German climber slid from above the crevasse and landed on a ledge on its downhill side. Her anchor is just visible - a small black strip in the middle of the photograph.
Crevasse rescue
RESCUED: The injured German climber and one of the rescuers, Richard Bottomley, are airlifted out of the crevasse about 8am today.
Rescue team packing up
RESCUE TEAM: Marius Bron, Richard Bottomley and Jonathan Hattrell packing up after a marathon effort.

Rescuers of a badly injured German climber who survived an 18 hour-ordeal in a huge crevasse high in the Southern Alps believe a small ledge saved her life.

Experienced mountain climber Sabine Hellenbrandt, 34 slid an unknown distance down the west face of Glacier Peak early yesterday afternoon and smashed into the crevasse's downhill side, slipping a further 5m till a ledge stopped her about 10 metres down.

Her rescuers from Fox Glacier doubted she would have survived had she fallen right into the deep crevasse.

Crevasse rescue
BACK ON SOLID GROUND: A German tourist, who was trapped in a crevasse overnight, arrives at the Franz Josef medical centre.

''It's very very lucky,'' South Westland Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader Marius Bron said today.

She suffered a nasty open fracture to her left wrist and a suspected fractured right ankle or lower leg in the fall.

The woman had set out from Pioneer Hut about 10am yesterday to climb the mountain with German climbing companion, Helmut Lachmann, 55, who is a doctor.


They were about 100m below the summit and climbing unroped when she fell about 1.30pm to 2pm.

''She was behind him and he turned around to see her sliding down the hill and disappear into a hole.''

Her companion climbed down and located her on the ledge, anchored her to the ice face for safety, bundled her up in a bivvy bag, splintered her arm and gave her some painkillers.

Then he set out to Pioneer Hut, which took him about an hour, where he used the hut radio to raise the alarm about 3.30pm.

Glaciers Helicopters airlifted three South Westland Alpine Cliff Rescue team volunteers near the summit about 6pm yesterday and they quickly located her when she answered their calls.

Despite getting her ready to be airlifted out, clouds rolled in and prevented the helicopter rescuing her last night.

Fortunately, Bron and his teammates Jonathan Hattrell and Richard Bottomley, all who work as glacier guides in Fox Glacier, had plenty of warm gear and equipment to help her through the night.

''The crux of the story is she probably would have died overnight from exposure had we not reached her last night,'' Bron said.

They stayed by her side at the freezing altitude 2854m above sea level.

The woman, a dialysis nurse, had strong painkillers with her plus her GP companion's first aid kit. She stayed conscious and in good spirits despite significant pain.

''She was incredibly strong and despite having an open fracture, she was able to talk in her second language.

''She was completely aware and accepting and grateful we were there. In fact, she said she wanted to come back to have breakfast with us this morning.''

Bottomley stayed at her side on the ledge the whole night, giving her hot water bottles and sips of water, keeping her comfortable and giving moral support.

She and Bottomley were airlifted out of the crevasse together on a strop this morning about 8am in clear weather, followed by Bron and Hattrell. She was flown to South Westland Health Services in Franz Josef before a Westpac rescue helicopter flew her to Christchurch Hospital.