On July 8th, Rick Allen fell off an ice cliff high in the Himalayas. He was in the middle of a solo attempt to summit Broad Peak, which, at 26,401 feet above sea level, is the world’s 12th highest peak. Thirty-six hours after he plummeted to what should have been his death, he was found by a drone.
Allen was with his longtime climbing partner, Sandy Allan, during the attempt at Broad Peak. According to the BBC, Allan decided to turn back due to high winds, and Allen kept going by himself. Allan returned to camp safely.
Allen, a 65-year-old mountaineer from Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is an experienced climber. Despite his experience, after 24 hours missing on the mountain, most people didn’t expect him to return. “A number of people had assessed the situation and come to the conclusion that I was not going to come back,” he told the BBC. “I think Sandy knows me well enough that I can hang in in some pretty tough situations. But I think even he was struggling.”
This isn’t the first time he’s found himself in an extraordinarily difficult situation. Back in 2012, Allen and Allan climbed “the last great unclimbed route in the Himalayas,” the Nanga Parbat in Pakistan via the Mazeno Ridge. During that climb, they ran out of food. When they finally finished, Allen had a case of frostbite that cost him half of a big toe. He described himself as “skeletal” on his return.
The drone that saved Allen was operated by a Polish climber named Bartek Bargiel. He, along with his brother Andrzej are attempting to ski down K2. After a Japanese cook at K2 spotted Allen’s backpack on the mountain, on July 10th, some 36 hours after Allen went missing, Bargiel decided to fly the drone in for a closer look. “He is a tough and strong-willed man and also incredibly lucky that a cook and then the drone spotted him,” Allan said. “We were convinced he was dead.”
After the Bargiel’s drone showed images that Allen was, against all odds, still alive, it was used to guide sherpas and climbers to him. They were able to bring him to base camp, where he was picked up by a helicopter and flown to a hospital. He was treated for frostbite to his toes, but incredibly, aside from that, he had only minor injuries.