Sole survivor’s close call

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This is stranded climber James Briscall (right) moments before being plucked to safety from a 155 metre-high cliff-face ledge near Glenorchy early last Saturday morning.

Briscall, 37, from Wanaka, had spent more than 12 hours waiting with little food before rescuers could arrive to help.

His abseiling companion Matthew Allison, 26, from Britain, died the previous night when he fell while trying to free a tangled rope at Chinamans Bluff.

Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue’s Chris Prudden lifted Briscall from the ledge while dangling from a strop line attached to a helicopter hovering close to the rocks.

“That’s the tightest strop rescue I’ve ever done,” says Prudden, a climbing guide of more than 20 years and part of a four-man team dispatched to the scene.

“Our pilot Alfie Speight was incredible and he said at times his rotor blades were as near as a metre from the cliff.

“There was very little room for tolerance and on another day in other weather conditions and with another pilot, everything would have been very different.”