The Granada Mountain Civil Guard has rescued a family of British hikers from a ravine in the Sierra Nevada who, after their mother fell and broke her collarbone, was trapped in the snow. The family – made up of the 57-year-old father, the 53-year-old mother and three children between 11 and 21 years old – were walking through the San Juan ravine when the woman fell down the ravine by a steep slope full of snow being produced, according to a statement from the Civil Guard, blows and bleeding lacerations on the left leg, as well as severe pain in the left shoulder. A warning to the Emergency Service 112 launched the rescue operation that lasted six hours, most of it at night, and ended at almost 11 p.m. on Wednesday, December 29.
The greatest risk facing the hikers, beyond the injuries and pain of the injured person, was hypothermia, due to the intense cold. When the rescue agents arrived at the scene of the accident, the five Britons had been in the snow for hours without “the appropriate material, nor the technical or physical level sufficient to ascend the steep slope of frozen snow,” explained the Civil Guard. In fact, the rescue team found the woman, at the bottom of the ravine, with signs of severe hypothermia. He had been there for hours, on the snow, in shorts. In this situation, the officers’ first task was to give him warm clothes and a hot drink. None of the members of the excursion wore, the agents explained, “neither clothing nor suitable footwear” for the activity they were carrying out.
The orography prevented the rescue team from undertaking the operation from a helicopter so they had to transport the wound on a stretcher over a distance of around 500 meters, with a steep slope and on the snow. The rest of the hikers had to do the same route after having been provided with the appropriate technical material – clothes and crampons – and being guided by the Civil Guard agents.
The San Juan ravine is a less traveled variant in Sierra Nevada than the better known Vereda de la Estrella, and in its different variants it can involve a route from 10 kilometers to more than 25. According to most guides online hiking, it is not a particularly difficult route, although the most common recommendation is to do it in spring or summer. At this time of year, as the rescue photographs show, the route is covered in snow and requires material, knowledge and minimal technical preparation. According to the Civil Guard, most of the accidents in the mountains are due to human error. Only a small percentage, they detail, is due to fortuitous events unrelated to the victim’s actions, such as avalanches or landslides.
Basic precautions in the mountains
Planning the activity, being accompanied by an expert and trying to go in a group of at least three people are the first tips that the Civil Mountain Guard considers essential for a safe excursion in these types of places. To this they add the need to plan the schedule with margin and never start late, especially in winter, so that there is plenty of sunlight for any contingency.
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Knowing the weather forecast, carrying the appropriate technical equipment – which will include a mobile phone with a well-charged battery – and warning someone of the route is also essential. Last but not least, never overestimate your own possibilities and choose an activity according to your physical and technical level.