Photo: heli rescue on Manaslu (Copyright: Nepal mountain rescue cell)
An email from Menno Boermans - Alpine Rescue Center:
For the second year, mountain rescue specialists of Swiss Air Zermatt are present in the Nepalese Himalayas. In the months of April and May they are training Nepalese helicopter pilots and rescuers of Fishtail Air how to perform rescues at high altitude. In the meanwhile the crew is standby, to come into action when someone is facing a life threatening emergency.
In spring 2010 -the first season Air Zermatt and Fishtail Air joined forces- the team made history by saving the lives of three Spanish climbers from almost 7000 meter on Annapurna. A performance which got a lot of attention worldwide and was honored with the Eurocopter`s 2011 Golden Hour Award in the United States. Other rescue and recovery missions in 2010 where performed on Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Mount Everest.
The team is stationed in Lukla and able to initiate high-altitude rescue attempts within hours of receiving a call. If necessary they fly a so-called human sling operation, an aerial maneuver originated in the Swiss Alps (1970). The rescuer will be brought to the patient, hanging from the helicopter on a longline, a rope that can be extended up to 200 meters. After doing a quick patient assessment the rescuer will evacuate the climber by clicking the harness onto the longline. In a second rotation the rescuer will be flown of the mountain.
To practice this kind of evacuations, in March 2011 the Nepalese crew underwent special training missions in Switzerland. Air Zermatt's chief pilot Gerold Biner emphasizes that the goal of the Nepal Air Rescue Project is that in the future the Nepalese team can carry out missions by themselves.