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A rescue in remote Greenland

Phillip Pauli

Gabriel Gersch is a professional wilderness trekker at Outventurous but even when he is not guiding clients he spends half his life in remote locations under canvas.

In the summer of 2017 Gabriel spent three months in Greenland trekking across demanding landscapes where perhaps no human had ventured before. The first trek lasted three weeks, the next took four weeks and the final one was seven weeks’ duration.

A Belgian travel services company dropped food caches every few weeks as provisions for Gabriel and his various companions who joined him on different legs of his journeys.

On the third week of the final trek, while traversing a rocky, steep ridge, Gabriel stood on a large boulder that came loose and he started plummeting down the mountain. He fell four metres with the boulder then rolled a few more metres, tumbling over more rocks.

On landing, he was conscious but in shock, bruised and bleeding. No bones were broken, thankfully. The advantage of carrying a very large backpack is that it had protected his spine and head.

One of his companions on this leg of the expedition was an experienced mountain guide who immediately started administering first aid to Gabriel, starting with disinfecting the wounds. One particular leg wound was very deep and he sewed it up with dental floss.

“My instinct was to keep going and not to evacuate. I calculated that I could get away with two resting days. But the leg wound wouldn’t close and it needed stitching on the inner layer,” recalls Gabriel.

Whether travelling in Alaska or Pakistan, Gabriel always carries a SPOT tracker to get help in case of an emergency and to send regular check in messages to his girlfriend back home in Vienna.

“I spoke to my girlfriend on my satphone. She has a medical background and she highlighted the risk of infection if I waited too long for medical attention. Despite this, I weighed up the options for 24 hours before finally pressing the SOS button on my SPOT,” he added. “Before doing so, I gave my girlfriend instructions to tell the International Emergency Response Centre (IERCC) and Greenland Search & Rescue (SAR) not to treat me as an emergency, knowing that they would call her instantly.”

Although he could communicate by satphone, Gabriel activated the SOS on his SPOT so that his insurance policy would cover his evacuation costs. It also ensured the SAR had accurate GPS coordinates.

As Gabriel anticipated, Greenland SAR acted immediately and within two hours a helicopter was transporting Gabriel to Qaqortoq hospital 150 km away. Following treatment, Gabriel’s injuries healed rapidly and he recovered fully.

His two companions had continued on the trek and Gabriel rejoined the team a week later when they arrived at a town to resupply.

This incident further strengthened Gabriel’s commitment to bring his SPOT with him wherever his adventures take him.

“I am really happy with the SPOT service, it is an amazing device. It is an essential piece of kit for anyone exploring the far corners of our beautiful planet,” added Gabriel.