A CARLOW MAN who miraculously survived after plunging 350 metres down a cliff edge while out hiking on his own thanked his lucky stars to be alive.
28-year-old Cormac Nolan, of Nolan Tyres in Ballon, was on a day trip to Donegal on New Year's day to visit Slieve League, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, when he slipped and fell 350 metres down the cliff edge. He had to wait twelve hours to be rescued in what was described as one of the most difficult rescue operations in years in the north west.
He started hiking six years ago and had travelled to Donegal as it was one of the last hikes in Ireland that he hadn't managed to complete. 'I slid all of a sudden and rolled in the rocks. I slowed myself down by grabbing at rocks on the way down but I never stopped until I eventually fell in to a crevice and I managed to land on a ledge,' said Cormac from his home in Ballon.
'I don't think it has really hit me yet just how lucky I am. My back and shoulders are sore and my left knee is banged up but other than that I am fine.' Cormac's luck didn't run out there. He is thankful he wasn't knocked unconscious and his mobile phone had a signal. He managed to contact his brother and the coastguard to tell him about the fall. 'I nestled into a corner of the ledge that was about 10ft square, it was the only dry patch and it was very sloped and slanted. I thought a helicopter would collect me in a couple of hours but when they got there, there was a problem with turbulence because I was so low down.
' The coastguard told me they had to send climbers down to rescue me. It was a difficult terrain and it wasn't easy to locate me. I owe them my life.'
Rescue teams worked for 12 hours in bad conditions to save Cormac and he and his family are extremely grateful to everyone involved in the rescue operation.
'A lot of people risked their own lives in order to save mine. Without the presence of all these people and teams I might not have made it,' he added.
He called the Malin Head rescue centre at 1pm from his mobile phone, which requested help from the Sligo Coast Guard.
However, the Coast Guard's progress was hampered by shingle on the cliffside, the dangerous position of Cormac and poor weather conditions. They were unable to winch him and search teams on the ground had to begin the slow process of bringing him back up the cliff.
Sligo Leitrim Mountain Team, which arrived at 4pm, described the rescue as one of the biggest and most technically difficult in the north west in years. After a number of attempts he was reached and was hauled back up the 400 or so metres at around 12.15am.
Mountain Rescue stretched the casualty to a waiting ambulance who brought him to Sligo General Hospital. He was released that same day and allowed home to Ballon with non-life threatening injuries. ' This was a very difficult rescue due to the great distance down to the casualty. There were lots of gullies and cracks on the cliff face so it was extremely challenging,' said Conal Sexton from the Mountain Rescue. ' The rescue was only achieved with the combined effort of the Coastguard, Mountain Rescue, Rescue 118 and Aranmore Lifeboat. All the various groups gelled so well together and thankfully there was a successful outcome.'