Challenging rescue across the national border
With wind speeds of over 125 kilometres per hour, Air Zermatt rescued two climbers from France on Pollux. During their mountain tour, the two fell about 80 metres on unstable ground. This resulted in serious injuries to one of the alpinists. Despite extremely adverse weather conditions, Air Zermatt managed to fly the seriously injured man safely to hospital in Aosta.
The rescue operation turned out to be extremely challenging due to the strong winds. The helicopter crew from Italy, which was alerted first, was forced to abort the air rescue after about an hour due to the strong gusts of wind. Moreover, the Italian rescue crews are not equipped with the longline technology needed for this rescue. Despite the winds, the Italian helicopter crew decided to fly eight experienced mountain rescuers to the Mezzalama hut. From there, they were to make their way to the accident site on foot.
After the Italian air rescuers were forced to abort the air rescue, Air Zermatt was alerted. During the approach, the rescue crew noticed that two mountain guides from Zermatt, who heard cries for help, had already descended to the fallen climbers. They kept the casualties warm with insulating sheets. They also handed over their own guests to other mountain guides who were on the Pollux.
Despite strong gale-force winds, the Air Zermatt helicopter crew managed to lower two rescue specialists from the Zermatt rescue station by means of a longline about 100 metres above the crash site. This enabled the specialists to descend to the seriously injured climber. In a further flight, the emergency doctor was also dropped about 100 metres from the accident site. On the spot, the emergency doctor provided the seriously injured climber with medical assistance. Despite the extremely challenging weather conditions, the Air Zermatt pilot succeeded in evacuating the injured climber by means of a 130-metre longline and made an intermediate landing at the Quintino Sella hut. There, the injured man was loaded into the helicopter and then flown to the hospital in Aosta.
Meanwhile, the wind gusts on the Pollux increased to such an extent that Air Zermatt was no longer able to evacuate the remaining fallen climber by helicopter. The two rescue specialists then decided to secure the climber with a rope together with the two mountain guides from Zermatt and to accompany him on foot to the Rifugio Guide d'Ayas. The Air Zermatt helicopter then flew the patient to Pian de Véraz, where he was flown by a rescue helicopter from Italy to the hospital in Aosta.
The mission took place on 7 August 2023.