Ramsau: The search for the missing person has so far been unsuccessful – Bavaria

Thursday is one of those days when new shots for tourism advertising could be made in the Berchtesgaden valley basin. The high mountains appear majestic and sublime as usual, at the top they are white from the fresh snow that has fallen in the past few days. But on the 2607 meter high Hochkalter above Ramsau, a drama unfolded in exactly these days, which was not to come to an end anytime soon on Thursday. Since the morning, mountain rescue forces and the alpine police task force have been looking for a 24-year-old man from Lower Saxony in the steep, snow-covered gullies and in the event of extreme avalanche danger, who had slipped from the ridge to the summit in a snow storm on Saturday and has been missing ever since.

In the early Thursday afternoon, the operations managers finally made the decision to withdraw the teams from the mountain so as not to put their lives at risk. Even before that, there had been little hope of finding the missing person alive five days after the last phone call. But then there is this signal.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, the mountain rescuers found the man’s backpack deep under the snow, which had previously been located from the helicopter using a so-called Recco buoy. These buoys emit radar signals that can also be reflected by electronic components such as the man’s notebook and mobile phone. The missing person’s cell phone was apparently not in the backpack, but the search devices did not receive any further signals from it. The Bundeswehr had also offered the lead police headquarters in Rosenheim a Eurofighter to send to the Hochkalter.

But even the extremely sensitive reconnaissance technology of the fighter jet could no longer discover any further traces on Wednesday and could not detect any minimal temperature differences, such as those that could result from a person who had built a protective cave under the deep snow against the icy wind and the low temperatures that had been below zero for days dug at the Hochkalter.

On Thursday morning, the helicopter still brought five members of the Ramsau mountain rescue service and a police mountain guide to the Hochkalter. They searched the area where the backpack had been discovered using handheld tracking devices and avalanche probes. The mountain rescuers moved in steep terrain and first had to drive bolts into the icy rock with great effort in order to be able to secure each other with ropes. At the same time, with the ever-increasing sunshine, the already great danger grew that the snow blown away by the storm of the past few days could go off as an avalanche. Despite hours of work, they did not find the missing person.

More than 1000 hours of use

In view of this, the decision was finally made to end the operation, which was extremely demanding both physically and psychologically, and to withdraw the teams from the mountain. The police helicopter gradually brought the mountain rescuers down into the valley. The emergency services had “done their utmost” since Saturday, said a police spokesman. In total, more than 1000 hours of work had already been completed by Wednesday evening, in the case of the mountain rescue service, exclusively on a voluntary basis.

When the mountain rescuers are in the valley, there is one last search flight. And that’s exactly where the Recco buoy still receives a signal. “A last straw,” says the police spokesman. Again, the helicopter flies two teams one after the other into the steep, now fully sunlit west face. The mountain rescuers have to secure themselves again, search again. If there is no further indication of the missing person by sunset, then the wait will probably be much longer.

The conditions on the Hochkalter, where one of the five last glaciers in Germany is located, are high alpine. According to the mountain rescue service, the 24-year-old from Lower Saxony had apparently been in the high mountains a few times before, but did not have much experience. Why he went on the demanding tour at the weekend despite the rainy weather and persistently poor weather forecast and why he didn’t turn back given the conditions on the mountain remains an open question. According to information from the mountain rescue service, he was traveling alone after a possible companion had already jumped off at home in Lower Saxony. He is said to have said in mobile phone messages that he was coming to the snow.

The phone could not be located

On Saturday afternoon, he finally used his mobile phone to make an emergency call, which initially went to the control center in Innsbruck due to poor network coverage on the Hochkalter. Later, the operations manager of the Ramsau mountain rescue service also had telephone contact with the missing person several times and gave him tips on how to behave, such as digging a snow cave against the wind and cold. But he also had to listen to the man’s strength gradually dwindle until Saturday evening. Despite many attempts using different techniques, it was not possible to locate the mobile phone.

All this distinguishes the case on the Hochkalter from many other emergencies in the mountains, where at some point relatives, hut keepers or room landlords report the casualty as missing. Mountain rescuers tried to find the man at an altitude of at least 2,400 meters on Saturday and into the night and the following day under the most adverse conditions, which were also very dangerous for them. At the same time, the snowstorm allowed only a few short helicopter flights for days. If the flying weather was good in summer, the Traunstein rescue helicopter Christoph 14 would have flown the man to the clinic within an hour, said a BRK spokesman. But since then it has become a mission over long distances like a hundred years ago, when there were no helicopters at all.

Mountain rescue people in the Berchtesgaden valley basin currently remember a complex search almost two years ago around the Watzmann. The body of the trail runner, who had been missing since the beginning of October, was only found by accident by a mountaineer in June, when the snow had retreated even at higher altitudes.

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