Spectacular rescue nets heroism award

Swiss rescuers flew high in the Annapurna region to reach the climbers Air Zermatt

Two mountain rescuers from Zermatt have received the Heroism Award in the United States for a daring rescue in the high peaks of Nepal.

This content was published on March 9, 2011 minutes and agencies

Pilot Daniel Aufdenblatten and mountain guide Richard Lehner pulled off the highest helicopter mountain rescue ever attempted at 7,000 metres in the Annapurna peak region last spring.

Zermatt Tourism says the two men were given the Aviation Week Heroism Award – a kind of aviation Oscar – at a ceremony in Washington on March 8. Last year’s winner was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who landed a crashing Airbus safely on New York's Hudson River.

Aufdenblatten, of Air Zermatt, and Lehner, of Alpin Center Zermatt, were in Nepal for training purposes when the emergency call came in – three climbers were in trouble at 7,000 metres.

The rescue took three attempts and was hit by bad weather. “As we approached the accident location, one of the injured thought we were a hallucination,” said Aufdenblatten in a statement.

Eventually the two Spaniards and Romanian were saved from the mountainside. “Until then people didn’t think that a helicopter rescue at such heights was possible. The Zermatt rescue centre showed that it was,” said Aufdenblatten.

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