Air Zermatt rescues two alpinists on the Matterhorn
An Air Zermatt rescue crew evacuated two alpinists on the Matterhorn over the weekend under extremely difficult wind conditions. The two climbers were blocked on the Solvay Hut. "This was one of my most difficult rescues," said pilot Robi Andenmatten.
Two climbers from Luxembourg failed in their attempt to climb the Matterhorn in winter. Totally exhausted, they decided to spend the night from Thursday to Friday in the Solvay bivouac. Due to wind and snow conditions on the Matterhorn, the alpinists were blocked and called for help from Air Zermatt on Friday morning. However, after several rescue attempts, the operation had to be aborted due to strong winds. A rescue on foot was not possible either due to strong wind and snow.
On Saturday morning, the rescue crew flew again to the alpinists at the Solvay hut. Despite gusts of over 100 kilometers per hour, the Air Zermatt pilot was able to set the rescue specialist down on a 90-meter winch at the Solvay biwak. The helicopter then flew to the base in Zermatt to stabilize the winch with weights.
Back at the Matterhorn, the pilot managed to place the winch with the rescue specialist to evacuate the two alpinists from the Matterhorn.They were both well. Nevertheless, it was a last-minute rescue, as the climbers had already used up their food supplies. Moreover, a later rescue would have been impossible with the weather conditions forecast to last until probably Thursday.
Both pilot and rescue specialist, Helmut Lerjen, were extremely challenged by the strong winds. Pilot Robi Andenmatten has flown over 5500 missions in his career. He describes the evacuation of the alpinists from the Solvay hut as one of the most challenging rescues ever. In a final phase, the rescue specialist could also be brought in.
Over the weekend, Air Zermatt was called to a total of 21 missions, sometimes with four helicopters in the air at the same time. Most of the rescues were ski accidents. On the Pigne d'Arolla, two Air Zermatt helicopters were also involved in a crevasse rescue.