A British man is recovering in hospital after being rescued ‘five minutes’ from dying after attempting to tackle western Europe’s highest mountain without proper equipment – to celebrate his birthday.
Feda Hussein, 26, was found by Italy’s Aosta Valley Mountain Rescue on Sunday morning on the Bionnassay glacier after calling for help the previous evening.
The graduate aerospace engineer became lost amid stormy conditions and got into difficulty at an elevation of 3100 metres (10,170ft) on the Italian side of the mountain range, but rescuers were unable to locate him on Saturday night due to the arduous conditions.
When a rescue team spotted him from a helicopter and made it to his position the next day they were in utter disbelief to discover Hussein, wearing nothing but hiking boots, a tracksuit and draped in a sheet, was still alive.
He was found with his body temperature at 25 degrees C – a full 10 degrees lower than the hypothermia threshold and three degrees lower than the ‘death zone’ of 28 – but somehow clung to life and was transported to Aosta’s Parini hospital.
Experts describe the route to the Mt Blanc summit as a ‘splendid and serious snow and ice climb’ and one that needs to be properly researched and equipped for.
But mountain rescue officials told MailOnline that Hussein, from Portsmouth, Hampshire, was ‘dressed as if out for a Sunday stroll’ with no warm gear or weatherproof tent despite bone numbing temperatures and high winds.
The graduate aerospace engineer told police he had wanted to climb the mountain as a ‘birthday present to himself’ – he turned 26 on October 1 the day he set off to climb Mt Blanc.
A worker from Aosta Valley Mountain Rescue attends to Hussein who was unconscious and on death’s door with a body temperature of 25 degrees C
The woefully underprepared climber is seen lying unconscious on the bottom left side of this image of the Bionnassay glacier
The British man was found more than 10,000ft up on a glacier as he tried to reach the summit of Mont Blanc
‘I wanted to climb Mt Blanc,’ the climber was quoted as saying by Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.
‘I left on Friday from Val Veny to complete the ascent of the Italian normal route to Mont Blanc which passes through the Gonella refuge.’
After spending Friday night in a tent on the nearby Miage glacier, Hussein continued his journey on Saturday but became lost when the wind whipped up a snowstorm.
‘I lost my way to the Gonella… I was not very far, but in that situation it was impossible to reach it. I had to stop and tried to take cover.’
He called a rescue team for help in the late hours of Saturday evening but conditions were so bad that they couldn’t locate him.
Aosta Valley Mountain Rescue technicians remained in intermittent contact with the lost mountaineer, but said their last communication came at 2:30am in which he was described as sounding ‘exhausted but conscious,’ according to Italy’s Rai News.
Rescuers were blown away when they discovered Hussein had attempted the huge climb without so much as proper mountaineering clothing, much less ice picks, crampons and other essential bits of climbing kit.
They suspected he was a desperate migrant who had opted to take a mountain route to bypass border controls, and were amazed to find that he was in fact a woefully underprepared British hiker.
A mountain rescue official said: ‘His body temperature when he was found was 25c and the normal is 37c, he was about five minutes from dying and was lucky to have been found.
‘He was suffering from severe hypothermia and flown immediately to hospital where the doctors started working on getting his body temperature back to normal.
‘The man said he was trying to climb to Mt Blanc but the forecast was bad and he wasn’t dressed at all correctly for such an expedition – we advise against climbing at this time of year because of the weather.
‘When he called to say he was lost he said he would be OK as he had a weatherproof tent but it was more of a tarpaulin and all he had was hiking sticks.
‘Climbing to an altitude of 4,800m is serious business and it should only be attempted by experienced climbers who are well prepared and well equipped.
‘Because of the weather conditions we couldn’t send out a team until the following morning so we had to tell him to stay put and try and find some shelter.
‘At one point we couldn’t raise him on the telephone and there was a real fear he had died but he was fortunate that we found him, five more minutes and he would have been dead.’
He added: ‘It is costly to send a crew up to rescue someone from the mountain in a helicopter, especially someone who has attempted a climb ill equipped and we are considering sending him a1,500 Euro bill for the rescue.’
Rescuers were blown away when they discovered Hussein had attempted the huge climb without so much as proper mountaineering clothing, much less ice picks, crampons and other essential bits of climbing kit (stock picture shows mountaineer on Bionnassay glacier with extensive equipment)
A French mayor in August introduced a policy whereby inexperienced climbers are forced to pay a near £13,000 deposit to cover rescue and funeral costs if they want to climb
In August a furious mayor on the French side of the Alpine range introduced a policy requiring ‘pseudo-mountaineers’ to front up a £13,000 deposit to cover their funeral and rescue costs before being allowed to climb.
Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, from where climbers can make it to the top along the Goûter Route, introduced the measure after dozens of people continued to defy warnings.
The considerable deposit is split up in two sections – €10,000 covers the cost of a mountain rescue and €5,000 covers the cost of a funeral.
The route is accessible to anyone of any skill level and officials have said the number of inexperienced climbers in increasing.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Peillex said the idea for the deposit came after five Romanian visitors attempted the ascent ‘wearing shorts, trainers and straw hats’ and had to be turned back by mountain police.
‘Sometimes silly people only respond to silly ideas,’ the mayor told The Telegraph.
‘They have the same approach of someone who wants to commit suicide. So I say, let’s do things properly and ask them to pay us the costs that this will entail.
‘People want to climb with death in their backpacks,’ he added.
‘So let’s anticipate the cost of having to rescue them, and for their burial, because it’s unacceptable that French taxpayers should foot the bill.’
However, the mayor of Courmayeur which sits at the foot of Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the border, called the decision ‘surreal’ and stated the Italian side ‘will not limit the ascent of hikers.’
‘The mountain is not a property,’ Roberto Rota said.
‘As administrators, we limit ourselves to indicating when the paths are not in the best condition, but asking for a deposit to climb to the top is really surreal. You can decide to close a path or a passage if there is an actual risk,’ the mayor told Corriere.
According the latest figures available around 25,000 people a year reach the summit of Mt Blanc and five years ago France introduced legislation clamping down on climbers who set off poorly equipped and who had to be rescued.