Three Spanish adventurers who went missing March 29 while trekking through parts of the High Atlas mountains in Morocco were found at the bottom of a cliff Saturday in the Tamest region by Moroccan emergency services, the Local reported. One of the cavers died, but two others survived and were airlifted out of the area for treatment. Their names have not been released.
The three had split from their larger group of nine to explore a set of caves. All nine were members of the Spanish Andalusian Federation of Mountaineering, and the three missing explorers' partners reported them missing after they failed to congregate Tuesday. It is not clear when the trio got trapped at the bottom of the cliff or how one of the climbers died, but local authorities said they fell from a cliff “several hundred meters high,” and were without a professional guide, Agence France-Presse reported.
It is also unclear how long it took for rescuers to reach the missing cavers, but local authorities said earlier this week that the unforgiving environment in the area where the trio went missing was hampering search and rescue operations.
“The geography of the region doesn’t help,” said Zoubir Bouhour, head of the Ouarzazate regional tourism agency. “The terrain is rugged, and there is a lot of fog at the moment, and there are lots of cave entrances.” Rescuers dispatched multiple helicopters to scour the area in hopes of finding the trio.
One of the six other cavers suggested that the missing three could have been caught in a flash flood brought on by melting snow further up the mountains, some of which tower at more than 13,125 feet high. Rising temperatures during the cavers' disappearance support the possibility of that claim. At least 50 people were killed last year in flash flooding incidents in the High Atlas Mountains, AFP reported.
Despite the deaths, the region remains widely popular with caving and mountaineering enthusiasts from around the globe. Some come to conquer North Africa’s highest peak, the 13,600-foot high Jbel Toubkal. The high altitude of the range means snow typically stays on the mountains until mid-summer.