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Three hikers suffered broken legs after boulders rolled down on them

Three hikers all suffered broken legs while hiking in Banhoek after baboons appeared to roll boulders down a cliff onto them.

A group of seven local hikers set out on a Saturday morning hike into the kloof mountains above Banhoek, outside Stellenbosch.

After a night in the mountains, they were returning via Voltstruitkloof on Sunday – hiking, abseiling, jumping and navigating down the deep river gorge. After stopping for a quick lunch on Sunday afternoon, the hikers noticed a large troop of baboons above them. Members of the group later reported that the baboons seemed agitated and curious about the humans far beneath them.

Ignoring the commotion the group continued to descend the kloof.

Two members of the group had completed a 55m abseil from a pool in the middle of a waterfall when a boulder – approximately 60kgs in weight – struck the ledge which the remaining five hikers were standing on. The boulder exploded on impact – sending shards of razor sharp “shrapnel” flying horizontally through the air.

Three hikers were struck by the lethal shards of rock and suffered broken legs, with one suffering an open leg wound.

Another hiker was struck by a piece of rock, and knocked over an exposed ledge, but the safety rope connected to their harness prevented them from falling.

More rocks continued to rain down from up high. The hikers believe the rocks were being dislodged by the baboons above. The hiking party huddled together, calming the injured among them, and warming them with sleeping bags. All while seeking shelter from the falling rocks.

Despite limited cellphone range, a hiker managed to make an SOS call.

The Western Cape Department of Health EMS / Air Mercy Service (AMS) helicopter was mobilised, with a team from Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) on board.

Once on the scene in the mountain gorge, the WSAR team were lowered down to the patients on the small ledge. 

The more seriously injured patient was packed into a stretcher and flown to a nearby landing zone. The remaining two patients were hoisted from the ledge in rescue harnesses.

All three were transported to hospital by ambulance for further treatment.

Rescue team members remained on standby while the remaining four hikers made their way out of the kloof.

The two uninjured hikers were commended by the rescue team for ‘remaining calm, and doing a fantastic job calming and looking after the injured.’

According to one of the uninjured patients: ‘This was the third time I’ve been down this kloof and the first time I’ve seen or heard any baboons up there.’

‘I don’t believe that the baboons were acting aggressively, the area is full of loose rock and debris. It is likely that the rocks were dislodged when the baboons were following us on the ledges above.’

The rescue coordinator commended the rescue helicopter crew for exceptionally skillful flying. 

WSAR spokesperson Johann Marais said: ‘We wish the patients a speedy recovery.’

‘We ask that all wilderness enthusiasts help us by sharing the emergency contact number – 021 937 0300 – and share our posts on the #IAmWildernessSafe campaign,’ Marais said.

On Saturday 4 February a 54 year old hiker female hiker was also rescued while scrambling on a cliff high above Camps Bay.

The patient was packaged into a stretcher and hoisted up into the helicopter, before being flown to a nearby landing zone and handed over to a waiting ambulance. She was then driven to hospital for further treatment.

Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR) is a network of government agencies, and civilian organisations, who partner in search and rescue.

Photos provided by Brent Russel and Dwayne Evans.

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