Friday, October 14, 2011

Falls in the Austrian Alps Becoming Alarmingly Too Commonplace

As a follow-up to my several recent postings on hikers being injured and killed in treacherous falls in Austria, the body of the 70-year-old retiree from Graz was discovered by mountain rescue service staff at the bottom of a steep cliff at the Teichalm Alp in Styria’s Weiz district on Thursday (October 13). The recovery of the corpse was rescheduled for today (October 14) as bad weather kept the team from transporting it into the valley by helicopter. The chopper had to remain grounded due to weather conditions.

COMMENT: Earlier this month, a 29-year-old hiker was seriously injured when he fell down a deep embankment on the Traunstein Mountain in Upper Austria. He was taken to a hospital by helicopter. A German tourist, 50, was also recently killed when he fell down a 200-meter cliff on a mountain near Reutte, Tyrol.

Sadly, 155 hikers, cyclists and forestry workers died in accidents in the Austrian Alps between May and October 2010. In 2009, 139 people died during the same period.

Mountain rescuers all over the country are currently preparing for an expected increase of incidents as the number of people making ski tours is set to soar. Various mountainous regions have been blanketed in snow since last month. A large number of winter sport regions will start into the skiing season officially within the coming weeks.

It is apparent that many of these injuries and deaths might well have been prevented if hikers over 40 had had a physical exam before engaging in mountain hiking, particularly given the high loss of life from such activity in the Austrian Alps.

Even though I engaged in rigorous mountain hiking early in my adult life, I have learned that having too many birthdays has a contributing effect on stamina, agility and limp elasticity.

Hence, I understand my limitations, although I continue to enjoy an active lifestyle. One of my life-long goals was to one day reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, yet I am astute enough to know that that goal may never be attained. As many of our readers know, a British hiker, 69, married only three years, recently reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro only to have a massive heart attack and die upon initiating descent.

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