36 Hours After A Climber Vanished In The Himalayas – A Drone Spotted A Lone Figure At 26,000 Feet

After becoming lost on Broad Peak mountain in the Himalayas for 36 hours, Rick Allen’s energy was waning. He was slipping in and out of consciousness and struggling to make meaningful ground. However, just as things were beginning to seem hopeless, a drone came flying towards him.

Allen comes from Aboyne in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. An experienced mountaineer, he has taken on some of the toughest climbs on the planet alongside friend and hiking partner Sandy Allan, who hails from the Scottish Highlands.

The pair completed one of their most challenging expeditions in 2012. That’s when they took on Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat. And that’s no mean feat – this is a peak which comes in at number nine on the ten tallest mountains in the world list. In addition, their route took them through the treacherous Mazeno Ridge, which happens to be the longest ascent in the whole of the Himalayas.

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While the duo may have completed the challenge known as the “last great” Himalayan climb, it also pushed them to their absolute limits. Following their incredible feat, Allen looked “skeletal” and was left fighting off frostbite.

With that in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that when the pair decided in July 2018 to climb Broad Peak – which is only the 12th highest mountain in the world – that it would be less challenging. However, that was not the case.

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After being battered by high winds on the mountain for days, Allan chose to turn back. However, rather than return to camp with his partner, Allen instead decided to battle on. As far as we know, he reached the summit without a problem. But it was on his return journey that disaster struck.

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Describing what happened, Allen told the Evening Express newspaper in July 2018, “I was climbing down and I just dropped. Either I broke through a snow bridge or something happened that I hadn’t picked up [on] and I fell. I had no idea how far.”

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The force of the subsequent impact knocked Allen unconscious. “I had no memory of landing at all,” he explained to the Express. “I realized I hadn’t broken anything. Then eventually after an indeterminate amount of time, I came round and I was a bit worried.”

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Allen’s prospects of survival now looked grim. He was all alone and off-route in biting temperatures of 5°F. To make matters worse, the injured climber would now have to rely on snow for hydration as he found his way back from the summit.

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Meanwhile, back at Broad Peak’s base camp, fellow climbers were beginning to lose hope of seeing Allen again. In an interview with the BBC in July 2018, he revealed, “a number of people had come to the conclusion that I was not going to come back.”

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As the hours ticked by, Allen struggled to stay awake. “This was now the second night with no sleep and I was very dehydrated,” he explained to the Express. “At one point I was imagining myself in a position of comfort and safety. I took my rucksack off and it wasn’t there anymore.”

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Having ditched his belongings somewhere on the mountainside, Allen had no choice to recover them once he’d regained consciousness. This meant going back the way he came and facing a number of perilous ice cliffs. But little did he know that the detour would be worth it.

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That’s because, as Allen retraced his steps, a drone popped up from behind him. The device was being flown by Bartek Bargie, a mountaineer from Poland. Bargie had been on the mountain with his brother Andrzej before joining the search for the missing climber.

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When a cook at base camp spotted a figure on the mountain through a telescope, Bargiel used his drone to get a closer look. Upon realizing that the person was indeed Allen, Bargiel was able to use the device to determine the climber’s position 26,000 feet up the mountain.

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With Allen’s coordinates pinned down, the Polish mountaineer then informed a search party of the climber’s whereabouts. They set off to look for the lost climber, while Bargiel used his drone to guide him towards them. Eventually, the Scotsman met up with the rescue team, who accompanied him back to camp.

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Following his ordeal, Allen said that seeing the drone had left him feeling “very encouraged.” The climber added, “They’d heard I’d gone missing and launched the drone and it came up and found me. They knew I was alive.”

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However, Allen wasn’t completely out of the woods just yet. He now faced a two day climb back to base. It was there that Allen was reunited with Allan, who was shocked to see his friend alive. “I think Sandy knows that I can hang on in some pretty tough situations. But I think even he was struggling,” Allen told The Telegraph newspaper in July 2018.

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After being assessed by a doctor, Allen was choppered of the mountain and later flew home to Scotland. Somehow, the climber had escaped his 36-hour ordeal with some frostbite and a small cut near one of his eyes. And in some ways, it was all thanks to a drone, a fact Allen was all too aware of.

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Prior to his ordeal on Broad Peak, Allen admitted that he had always found the flying gadgets somewhat annoying. However, he had since been forced to reevaluate his thinking about drones. “This has changed my perception of them,” the mountaineer admitted to the BBC.

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And while such an experience would put most people off mountain climbing for life, Allen hasn’t ruled out other Himalayan expeditions in the future. And the next time he’s on a mountainside he might not be so dismissive of drones flying overhead. After all, he has one to thank for his life.

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