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International effort saves sick Briton in remote French mountain hut

The seriously ill 69-year-old was found collapsed without heating by Pyrenees rescue teams after friends in the UK and Germany raised the alert

The man was found in his remote cabin in the mountains around Saint-Lary ski resort (Hautes-Pyrénées) Pic: PGHM Pierrefitte-Nestalas

[Update December 16 at 10:30 - The man is still in hospital but is doing better. His near comatose state had been caused by hypothermia and hypoglycemia, a spokesperson from the PGHM de Pierrefitte-Nestalas told The Connexion.] 

A British man who lives alone in a remote Pyrenean mountain cabin has been rescued following a search operation involving the help of friends in the UK and Germany.

The 69-year-old has been living in an isolated house near the ski resort of Saint-Lary (Hautes-Pyrénées) for the past decade and was in the habit of calling his friends in in the UK every few days. 

However, “towards midday” yesterday (December 14), “a lady contacted us from Germany,” a member of the Peloton de gendarmerie de haute montagne (PGHM) de Pierrefitte-Nestalas mountain rescue team told La Nouvelle République des Pyrénées.

She had been told by the man’s friends in the UK that they were worried about his health and asked to explain this to the PGHM, as they could not speak French.

Yesterday morning the man had picked up the phone to his friends but his voice had sounded strange and he had been unable to speak properly. They knew then that something was very wrong, although they could not say what.

After being informed of this by the German lady the PGHM “knew that he lived independently in a cabin around Saint-Lary, but not where exactly…”

Facing an impossible search the PGHM contacted the gendarmerie de Vignec hoping that they may know of a British man living alone in the mountains. 

Luckily, they did. Remembering a man who had renovated an old sheep barn between the Col de Portet and Lesponne mountain passes, the gendarmes went there and found his car. 

‘Critical condition’

However, they then realised that the cabin could not be accessed by foot because of the huge amount of snow which had fallen in the area that day. 

So the Vignec gendarmes told the PGHM mountain rescue team the exact location of the house with the help of the man’s family in the UK and a helicopter was sent out immediately with two rescuers and a Samu doctor on board.  

When they finally found the cabin, they saw that it had been completely buried underneath the snow and that they would have to dig their way inside in order to reach the man.

On gaining entry they found the man lying on the floor, only semi-conscious. The cabin had not been heated for several days. 

“We do not know how long he had been there in that state,” the PGHM spokesperson said. The rescue team could not tell whether he had fallen or if he had collapsed but it was clear that he had hypothermia.

The man was treated at the scene and then airlifted to Tarbes hospital. 

‘Happy to find him alive’

“The reports that we have had from the doctors since his arrival in Tarbes are mixed,” the PGHM said. “He must undergo several tests in order to determine what happened to him and how he will react in the hours to come. At this point he is still in a critical condition.”

The Connexion contacted the PGHM de Pierrefitte-Nestalas this morning and were told that the man’s condition is stable but he is still in intensive care.

“We found him in very poor health but we were very happy to find him alive because, amid the weather conditions that we had yesterday, we were afraid that he may not have survived,” a member of the rescue team said.

“However, although alive he was very ill so we and the doctor began treating him immediately before we evacuated him to the hospital.”

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