Intensive week of operations at Air Zermatt
The rescuers of Air Zermatt were in constant duty last week. In total, the Air Zermatt rescue crews were called out more than 70 times by helicopter and more than 20 times by ambulance from Monday to Monday. A selection of some of the missions shows that the emergencies could not have been more different.
Air Zermatt felt the effects of the current weather at first hand last week. The persistent heat, heavy thunderstorms with lightning and storms left their mark in the Valais: falling rocks, crevasse falls, a forest fire and alpinists blocked in the mountains kept the Air Zermatt rescuers on their toes.
Risk for rescue specialists
For the past week, Zermatt's mountain guides have been recommending not to climb the Matterhorn because of the acute danger of falling rocks. The majority of climbers follow this recommendation. But some ignore this warning. The consequences for the Air Zermatt rescue crews can be dramatic. On Thursday, for example, Air Zermatt was called to a mission on the Matterhorn. An alpinist from France got caught in a rockfall, injured his shoulder and had to be rescued from the mountain face. An Air Zermatt crew wanted to fly a rescue specialist to the injured climber. But because of the constant rockfall, the rescue specialist could not be dropped off immediately on the spot. Other rescue specialists had to be flown to the mountain to secure the roof of the Matterhorn. They had to ensure that no further rockfall was triggered in the summit area. Only when the rescue specialists secured the roof could the injured climber be rescued.
Firefighting operation in Zwischbergental
Also on Thursday, thunderstorms, some of them violent, broke out in the Upper Valais. Air Zermatt was called to the thunderstorms in the Lötschental on the one hand, and to a fire-fighting operation in Zwischbergental on the other. In the evening, a resident discovered smoke rising in the forest. An Air Zermatt helicopter was immediately called out for a reconnaissance flight. It was discovered that a tree had caught fire after being struck by lightning. Due to the impassable terrain, the fire brigade could not reach the source of the fire. Moreover, it was not possible to extinguish the fire from the air due to the onset of night. It was not until daybreak that the fire was extinguished by Air Zermatt. Despite the dry conditions, the fire did not spread to other trees. However, for safety reasons, the tree was felled and transported away by an Air Zermatt helicopter.
An uncomfortable night on the Weisshorn
On Thursday, a three-man team was on their way up the Weisshorn. Surprised by the thunderstorm, they were blocked on the mountain. They made an emergency call and asked the rescuers from Air Zermatt for help. However, the bad weather made it impossible to evacuate the rope team that evening. Therefore, the climbers had to spend the night on the mountain. Early on Friday morning, Air Zermatt took off for another rescue attempt with two rescue specialists on board. The pilot managed to take advantage of a brief clearing of the fog cover to drop the two rescue specialists off with the climbers in distress and successfully rescue them on the Weisshorn.
Crevasse fall on the Breithorn plateau
The persistently high temperatures are taking their toll on the Valais glaciers. Time and again, Air Zermatt is called out to crevasse collapses. This was also the case on Wednesday. An alpinist was unroped on his tour of the Breithorn. Right next to the main route, the alpinist fell about 25 metres into a crevasse. Air Zermatt, in collaboration with rescue specialists from Zermatt, was able to free the alpinist from the crevasse. Injured, he had to be flown by helicopter to the Inselspital in Bern.