Rabat – Omar Ait Ahmad, a 25-year-old from Toubkal, tells the story of the harrowing mountain rescue in an exclusive interview with Morocco World News.
“I am going to recount you the story from the very beginning,” Ait Ahmad sighed, still sounding traumatized.
The story began on Saturday, February 25, when the Swiss woman and her partner set out to hike Mount Toubkal. They could not have known it would turn out to be such a fateful decision and that nature itself would turn on them.
“On their way to the summit they reached a hill, which is between 30 to 100 meters away from the summit,” Ait Ahmad said. “Below the hill, there is a dangerous drop-off covered by avalanche snow. [As soon as] they set their foot on the edge of the hill, the couple fell.”
Ait Ahmad, who had been walking about 20 meters away from the couple, suddenly saw a group of tourists yelling. “When people saw the couple fall – they all screamed – I quickly ran to the scene and I saw that the avalanche had taken her down below.”
The man kept trying not to fall below by his climbing equipment.
“We quickly handed him the cord and saved him and called a guide to take him down to a refuge,” Ait Ahmad said.
Into the Avalanche
After the man was saved, the rescuer turned his attention to saving the woman. Ait Ahmad recalled there was group of Spanish security agents exploring the area, guided by two Moroccan gendarmeries. They attempted to climb down to follow the flow of the avalanche, which spanned approximately 900 meters.
“We kept following until we reached 700 meters, but we could not carry on; we reached a difficult place on our way, and we couldn’t go any further.. Also, we no longer had cables, since we’d used them all,” Ait Ahmad told MWN.
Ait Ahmad, however, was determined to save the woman. “I told all of the rescuers to help me and keep making our way towards the woman, creeping alongside the avalanche[…] But they told me that they could not put their lives at risk, and they also stopped me from going down.”
Ait Ahmad continued recounting the story, saying that by 2 PM they’d climbed back up the avalanche flow, unable to follow through on their efforts to save her.
Early Sunday Morning
After the woman spent the entire night in temperatures below 12° Celsius, Ait Ahmad and a friend remained determined to save her. “Early Sunday morning, exactly at 4AM, there were four of us. We took different route, far from the mountain, to save her.”
It took them until 9 PM Sunday evening, but they were finally able to reach her.
“We found her with a badly broken right ankle. She was frozen, so we helped her by changing her clothes and feeding her,” Ait Ahmad continued. “A man came to check if she was still alive in order to call the medical helicopter to move her to the hospital to receive the medical necessary treatment.”
All’s Well That Ends Well
Ait Ahmad, who has documented the heroic event from memory, went on to say that by virtue of one of his hiking expertise, he assisted her in the climb down with her cables.
“Indeed, we agreed to help her climb down. At first, she screamed due to the pain in her ankle, but later we were able to help her to lay down in a comfortable position to avoid causing her pain.”
For the next hour, they assisted the woman down the mountain until their fellow rescuers came with two gendarmeries carrying a stretcher. Then, when they reached the river, they spent the next seven hours making their way to the helicopter, which transported the exhausted tourist to Marrakech’s Mohammed VI Hospital.
The woman had surgery on Monday morning. “Since then, we have had no further word regarding her medical status,” Ait Ahmad concluded.
The story of the heroic rescue spread on social media after Ait Ahmad posted a video showing him helping the women climb down the mountain, which is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Morocco.