Climber rescued after surviving 1,000ft plunge

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A CLIMBER escaped with minor injuries after plunging 1,000ft down a rock face on a Scottish mountain range.

The 35-year-old man fell the height of the Eiffel Tower shortly after he reached the summit of the 3,600ft Sgurr Choinnich Mor, five miles east of Ben Nevis.

The man, who is from Glasgow and was part of a group of 24 climbers, lost his footing and fell from the summit just after 2pm yesterday.

Astonished rescuers said the climber must have glanced off the rocky outcrops on the craggy eastern slope of the mountain as he fell.

HMS Gannet's Sea King helicopter was already airborne on a training mission and arrived within 30 minutes.

When the crew found the man, he was on his feet and reading a map.

"The top of the mountain was partially in cloud, but we spotted the group and they were able to point out the rough direction to us," said Lieutenant Tim Barker, the crew's observer. "We began to hover down the slope and spotted a man at the bottom, standing up.

"We honestly thought it couldn't have been him, as he was on his feet reading a map. Above him was a series of three high craggy outcrops.

"It seemed impossible. So we retraced our path back up the mountain and, sure enough, there were bits of his kit in a vertical line all the way up where he had obviously lost them during the fall.

"It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying."

The crew managed to move close enough to the mountain to lower their paramedic to the ground. He examined the fallen climber to find he only had cuts and bruises and a minor chest injury.

Lt Barker said: "We were able to get in quite close to where he had landed and we winched our paramedic, Petty Officer Taff Ashman, down to the scene and it appeared that, beyond some superficial cuts and bruises and a minor chest injury, he was unscathed.

"He was shaking from extreme emotional shock and the sheer relief at still being alive.

"We checked the height while we were in the hover and we were at pretty much bang on 2,600ft, making his fall 1,000ft from the summit."

Once on board, the casualty was reassessed by a doctor, who was already onboard the helicopter and had been with the crew training.

The casualty was then transferred to Glasgow Southern General Hospital.

Lt Barker said when the crew heard of the distance the climber had fallen they had expected to find him badly injured or dead.

"He is lucky to be alive.It's hard to believe that someone could have fallen that distance on that terrain and been able to stand up at the end of it, let alone chat to us in the helicopter on the way to the hospital.

"Really an amazing result - I have to say, when we got the call and realised the details of where he'd fallen, we did expect to arrive on scene to find the worst-case scenario.

"It's fantastic to have been able to come away with this kind of totally unexpected positive outcome. The whole crew is elated to share in this chap's good fortune."

Gannet's full crew included pilots Lieutenant Al Hinchcliffe and Lieutenant Mike Paulet, observer Lieutenant Tim Barker and the Navy crew's paramedic, Petty Officer Taff Ashman.

In 2009, HMS Gannet, the only Royal Navy aviation craft north of Somerset, broke its own record from the previous two years for the highest number of call-outs, with 447 - rescuing 378 people - making it the UK's busiest helicopter search and rescue unit since records began.

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