Exercise caution on solo hikes

Energy Sunday 20/October/2019 21:04 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: The brother of a South African national who died while on a solo hike in Oman has asked others to exercise caution, should they wish to go exploring in the future.
Brother of expat who was found deceased in Wadi Al Khoud speaks to Times TV
Irrespective of whether people plan on hiking by themselves or in groups, Keith Nelson, the brother of Ian Nelson, who recently died while hiking in Wadi Al Khoud, advised people to take the necessary precautions before venturing out on a hike.
The emergency authorities warned people to take extreme caution while scaling mountains. A PACDA official said: “There are a number of safety requirements that climbers must follow. It is important to climb safely, to always inform someone where you are going and when you expect to be back and to ensure you always have some way of communication.”
Although Ian had informed his family before heading out, they began to grow worried when he failed to return and informed the authorities.
Search teams from the Sultanate’s emergency services combed the area in an extensive and exhaustive operation, but Ian had already died, and Keith has asked others to follow certain steps if they don’t want to share his brother’s fate.
“If you need ‘me’ time in the mountains then you must plan your route carefully, so you don’t walk in the hottest hours,” he said. “Make sure someone at home knows where you are going to walk, your route and your planned times. Also, make sure to call or text when you start and end your solo trip, and lastly, do not go too far from inhabited areas.”
According to PACDA, the most common cases involve people getting lost, falling from a high point, becoming too exhausted to continue, losing their way due to weather conditions, entering areas alone and being unable to leave, and getting trapped because they were unable to use the tools well enough.
“It is particularly important to always be aware and cautious when choosing a place for climbing; stay away from the idea of being adventurous. We have many tourists who come to Oman and fall in love with the beauty of its mountains, but sadly they do not realise the nature of the place and this many times, leads to problems for them, because some of the mountains in Oman are not stable, and so people must be well informed about the mountain they wish to climb,” the official said.
Ian Nelson moved to Oman 10 years after his last visit and had gone hiking in Wadi Al Khoud on September 18. He was reported missing by his family members after failing to contact his wife.
Talking exclusively with Times of Oman, Ian’s older brother Keith said the tragic incident took place exactly a month after Ian returned to Muscat, after having spent two years in Oman a decade ago.
“Ian was my younger brother by a few years,” he revealed. “10 years ago, he was in Oman for two years and discovered the Omani mountains. Ian was somebody that really liked to walk, trek, hike and be among nature – that’s when he was at his happiest. He arrived on August 18 and the tragedy happened exactly a month later on September 18. “Since he had been back, he had taken every opportunity to go into the mountains or walk on the beaches and loved it.
“Throughout his life he had a tremendous love for nature,” added Keith Nelson. “In South Africa, he used to be a game ranger for many years, working at different game parks. As kids, his favourite activity was to collect snakes out of the bush; he used to drag me along with him to go and find snakes, put them into pillowcases and bring them home and hide them from my mother. His love of nature was very intense and strong.”
He continued: “On that particular day, he was in Al Khoud and had the opportunity to go and explore. He parked in Wadi Al Khoud, the other side of the village and went walking. At the end of the day his wife called us in desperation because he had not been to collect her from work as he was meant to, and we began to look for him. We did not know where to start and we continued through the afternoon.
“Eventually, through the tracker on the hired car, we were led to where his car was parked,” explained Keith. “From there, through various people that we knew, the police were informed. We went into the Wadi until the police arrived, and when they did, they did so in full force. The emergency people and the civil defence people were all there in numbers and searched the Wadi right as far as they can at night with their dogs until 3:30 in the morning.”
Keith said that throughout the search for Ian, and in the aftermath of their sweep for him, the authorities had been extremely kind and supportive, and offered the family whatever help was in their capacity.
“The authorities offered us tremendous compassion and support, offering us water every now and then and keeping us updated with the situation,” he explained. “We really were treated compassionately and warmly. On behalf of Ian’s wife and his family, as well as my family, we would like to say thank you to them and to the Omani people and Omani forces. We were overwhelmed. Actually, we could not believe what we were seeing, and believe what kind of treatment we received from them. So, my thank you to the Omani forces for what you did and the way you stood with our family – it is deeply appreciated.”
“Next morning the authorities again arrived with a unit from the rescue people and other aspects of security forces, and under the lead of a lieutenant colonel who was tremendously helpful, compassionate and warm. They spent the day scouring the mountains leaving no stone unturned. The parking area was like a military zone. There were vehicles coming and going, dog squads,” Keith said.
He added that at one stage they thought the number of officials involved in the search reached around 250 people with over 50 vehicles in the mountain, even as temperatures peaked at 40 degrees.
“Eventually the rescue teams found Ian deep in between two mountains and informed us that it seemed like he’d gone peacefully,” recalled Keith. “They said he probably sat down and maybe fainted or became unconscious and didn’t recover from that. He was then brought down from the mountain around 3pm on September 19th,” Keith concluded.