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Search & Rescue


One of the key events that lead to the formation of the MCSA is an incident in September 1889 in which a party of ladies and gentlemen was caught by the infamous ‘table cloth’ on Table Mountain and the party was forced to spend a cold night on the mountain. This incident set the ball rolling and in 1891 the MCSA was formed which from the onset, has had as one of its objectives the organising of search and rescue parties to provide assistance to fellow mountaineers and general members of the public. MCSA Search and Rescue has been involved in some 3000 rescues since its inception and today responds on a weekly basis to various incidents (the Western Cape being the most active region). To this day Table Mountain and surrounds remains the area that is responsible for the most mountain rescue operations in South Africa.


Currently MCSA search and rescue comprises of 6 permanent Search and Rescue teams in various parts of the country (refer to diagram). The MCSA Search and Rescue teams are run on a volunteer basis. The teams work with organisations such as the South African Air Force (the first joint SAAF-MCSA helicopter operation was conducted in 1957), WSAR (Wilderness Search and Rescue: Western Cape – link to ), Off Road Rescue Unit (link to ), SA Police, SASAR (South African Search and Rescue Organisation) (link to and the ARCC (Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre) and others. Team members include mountaineers, medical professional (e.g. paramedics and doctors), guides, rope access and high-angle professionals in addition to volunteers occupying a wide range of (day-job) professions. The MCSA Search and Rescue equipment includes several kilometres of rope, response trailers, mountaineering equipment, radios, laptop computers as well as specialised rescue equipment suitable for helicopter and land based operations in wilderness environments.

Competencies and Services

MCSA Search and Rescue’s primary competency lies in dealing with emergencies in non-urban environments (i.e. typically remote, wilderness and or mountainous areas). MCSA Search and Rescue is able to offer assistance, on a volunteer basis, to persons involved in bona-fide emergencies based on resource availability. A wide range of competencies are maintained through a programme of regular training. Competencies include amongst others: survival and movement in difficult wilderness/mountainous areas, rope rescue, helicopter based rescue, wilderness medicine and -patient care, radio communication and search management.

MCSA Search and Rescue’s own involvement in search and rescue is offered free of charge. MCSA Search and Rescue services relates to searches (e.g. overdue or missing parties, lost aircraft), rescues (e.g. injured or stranded climbers or hikers, aviation accidents) and the recovery of mortal remains in inaccessible areas.

Emergency Map


Note that the numbers are listed in order of priority. The numbers in bold are the primary emergency numbers. Correct as of March 2013.

Western Cape
Cape Town
021 937 0300

Convenor : 082 338 3176 - Andy Wood

Convenor: 082 499 9656 - David Nel

For mountain security / crime related incidents in the Cape national park s call: 086 110 6417


Hottentots Holland 
Somerset West
021 937 0300

Convenor: 082 393 0407 – Gela Tölken


South Cape

Plettenberg Bay/Knysna/George

Tel: 10177 (Metro)

Convenor: 082 339 1240 – Drew Scott

Convenor: 082 323 4349 - Rogan Hindmarch


Eastern Cape
Port Elizabeth

Tel: 10177/041 585 1555  (Metro)

Tel: 072 324 4985 (Vodacom)

Tel:  073 755 2250 (MTN)

Convenor: 082 781 1770 - Tim Jones



Durban / Pietermaritzburg
Tel: 0800 005 133

Convenor: 082 990 5876 - Gavin Raubenheimer



Johannesburg / Pretoria
Tel: 074 125 1385 
Tel: 074 163 3952

Convenor: 083 274 1116 – Dean vd Merwe

Note the Gauteng team also covers the Free State, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga


MCSA National Convenor

Rob Thomas - 082 652 1490