The Daily Telegraph

Dramatic rescue of Britons on Mont Blanc

- By Henry Samuel in Paris

TWO British climbers have recounted their miraculous escape just 200 metres from the top of Mont Blanc after one of the pair lost consciousn­ess and fell down a crevasse in “terrifying” winds.

French gendarmes who carried out the daring rescue mission on Tuesday said the Britons, both experience­d climbers, were “incredibly lucky” and only cheated death thanks to an unexpected hour-long window in the storm.

They were “minutes away” from telling the unharmed member of the twoman party to cut his rope and leave his colleague for dead given the worsening weather conditions.

Londoners Matthew Tomlinson, 38, and Daniel Acquah, 54, were in the final stages of a four-day climb up the infamous Peuterey Integral – known as one of the longest ridges in the Alps. Covering rocky, mixed and snow terrain, the ridge crosses several peaks before summiting Mont Blanc du Courmayeur.

Mr Acquah had an early scare in a lesser fall when some ice collapsed but, apparently unharmed, he was able to continue the climb.

However, drama struck on the last day at 4,780m, barely 200 metres from the summit. “We had stopped to navigate,” Mr Tomlinson told The Daily Telegraph. “I was at the very pinnacle of the ridge on the GPS app of my phone as it was hard to see where to go given the terrible wind and fog.

“All of a sudden Dan just stopped making sense and keeled over backwards,” he said, adding that the pair were roped together. “I just managed to get my ice axe over the ridge line, dug it hard into the ice, and kept hold of my phone.”

He said he had no idea what would happen next. “You never know whether you will stay where you are or follow him down. He fell around 20 to 25 metres. He flailed and tumbled and then hit the crevasse.”

Mr Acquah finally mustered the strength to climb out of the hole and towards his colleague on the ridge. However, when he got there he lost consciousn­ess, apparently suffering from concussion and altitude sickness.

With his friend unable to move, Mr Tomlinson phoned the high mountain rescue gendarme unit, PGHM, in Chamonix. The weather was too poor for helicopter­s so four gendarmes had to scale the summit from the other side to reach the men after being dropped at the Col du Goûter at 4,000m. Once they arrived at 6pm, the gendarmes gave Mr Acquah oxygen and steroids to revive him.

However, high winds and fog prevented two helicopter­s from reaching them. “A storm was due an hour later, so we had to leave. If the injured man had not been able to walk, we would have left him,” said Stéphane Bozon, the PGHM commander.

“This man was saved from almost certain death given the conditions. We had even envisaged the possibilit­y of asking his roped companion to leave him because we weren’t sure we could get there in time.”

 ??  ?? The Britons were rescued just 200 metres from the summit of Mont Blanc
The Britons were rescued just 200 metres from the summit of Mont Blanc

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