Rescued climbers said to be in 'great spirits'

 

TWO MOUNTAIN climbers were said to be in a “great spirits” last night following their rescue from Lugnaquilla mountain, where they had gone missing for almost 24 hours.

A total of 120 people were involved in the Co Wicklow search, including mountain rescue teams from all over Ireland, the Defence Forces, gardaí and RAF teams.

The two men in their 30s reached the summit at about 4pm on Monday. However, they became disorientated when they lost their map and thick fog descended.

The two experienced mountaineers called the rescue services on their mobile phone at about 9pm after making a number of unsuccessful attempts to find their way down.

However, they had to spend Monday night in subzero temperatures on the mountainside.

A rescue helicopter was hampered by bad weather and the men, who kept in touch with emergency services by phone, were able to hear but not see the helicopter at one point.

At 12.30pm yesterday they were spotted by Army Rangers. A mountain rescue team then reached the men.

They were stretchered by 16 soldiers for 3½km to a place the rescue helicopters could reach.

“The South Prison, where the two men were found, is a precarious area in good weather, so their extraction with knee-high snow and visibility down to five metres is a demanding and hazardous operation,” an Army spokesman said.

The two men were airlifted in two helicopters, one Air Corps and one Coast Guard, to Tallaght hospital in south Dublin.

The men were treated for hypothermia but were expected to be released from hospital last night following observation.

“They are in great form, very very good and doing really well,” a hospital spokeswoman said. She said the two men were surprised at media interest in their rescue.

“Every team in the country and the North was involved in the rescue, ” Cindy Doyle of Glen of Imaal Red Cross Mountain Rescue said, adding they had been “extremely worried and had to put all hands on deck to make sure [the rescue] was successful”.

RAF teams were called by the Dublin rescue co-ordination centre yesterday.

“We are delighted to have helped our Irish colleagues in what for us was a very unusual deployment,” Michael Mulford of the RAF rescue centre in Kinloss in Scotland said.

Irish teams were exhausted following the night search so “fresh legs” were needed, he said.

Rescuers defended the men’s decision to climb the mountain.

“There was no silliness or stupidity involved and all precautions were taken. They simply lost the map on the climb and didn’t realise it until they got to the top,” Paul Gilbert, who took part in the search, said.

An Irish mountaineer was injured in an avalanche yesterday as it swept another climber to his death in the Italian Alps.

The 39-year-old man, named by a news agency as David Twotm, was flown by air ambulance to the Parini hospital in Aosta after being hurled more than 150m down the mountain in Valnontey.

Hospital staff said he was being treated for minor injuries.

A French climber died in the avalanche and two British mountaineers survived unscathed.