iPhone saves snowboarder after plunge into icy crevasse at 10,000 feet | Cult of Mac

iPhone saves snowboarder after plunge into icy crevasse at 10,000 feet

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Tim Blakey takes a selfie high in the Alps.
Tim Blakey takes a selfie high in the Alps.
Photo: Tim Blakey

Here’s a word to the wise: Always carry your charged iPhone, and don’t ski or snowboard “off-piste” in the Alps at 10,000 feet by yourself. Tim Blakey got the first part right, just barely, and that’s why he’s alive today.

The British personal trainer was snowboarding solo off of marked trails near Zermatt, Switzerland — on a glacier — when he plunged about 15 feet down into a crevasse and got stuck. He couldn’t scale its icy walls. He was alive for the moment down there, but he was alone.

Alone, that is, except for an iPhone clinging to 3% battery life and a weak 3G signal.

iPhone SOS call saves snowboarder trapped in crevasse high in the Alps

Blakey credits both the iPhone and Swiss rescue services with saving his life.

But before they saved his life, something else may have: the snow bridge inside the crevasse. It broke his fall after about 15 feet, and it held. All he had to do was move very, very carefully to keep it from crumbling underneath him, causing him to fall to his death, most likely.

This is Blakey's view from inside the crevasse, looking up at the sky.
This is Blakey’s view from inside the crevasse, looking up at the sky.
Photo: Tim Blakey

Once he managed to break out his iPhone, he saw its low battery life remaining as well as its weak signal. But he remembered something crucial: how to use the Emergency SOS feature, which calls emergency services and sends text messages to services and contacts designated for emergencies.

Blakey, who has snowboarded for 17 years, posted on Instagram describing his ordeal and his gratitude for the rescue. Here’s his thank you to Apple and his trusty handset:

The last thank you to Apple, their side button 5 click to emergency services – especially great when your screen is constantly being dripped on, & to the service provider for giving me 3G connection and 3% battery 5m below the ice. The alternative to this has been keeping me up at night to say the least.

Here's the view looking down into the crevasse.
Here’s the view looking down into the crevasse.
Photo: Tim Blakey

After the rescue, ‘Life 2.0’ begins

After the SOS communications, rescuers arrived and pulled Blakey from the crevasse. They took him to the hospital for his injured ankle. Even so, he made his flight back to London that evening.

Of course, he could have still been in that icy coffin that evening, as night fell and temperatures dropped.

In his post, Blakey said he was “still clueless” as to how to repay his rescuers. He also said “Life 2.0 begins now.”

“Perhaps the first step is bringing awareness to the amazing job these guys do on the mountain and awareness to others to not be as careless as I was,” he wrote.

He said he would also always snowboard with someone and thoroughly research resorts’ off-piste areas beforehand.

Blakey, left, poses with Michael, who led the rescue team.
Blakey, left, poses with Michael, who led the rescue team.
Photo: Tim Blakey

Two methods of placing Emergency SOS calls via iPhone

You may never plummet into an icy crevasse at 10,000 feet. But if you get into a serious scrape, there are two ways you can call emergency services on your iPhone, in addition to dialing the appropriate number for your country or region:

  • Press and hold the side button and either volume button, then slide-to-call.
  • If you can’t see or use your screen, press the power button five times.

The second one is fully automatic, offering a short countdown before calling so you can cancel if you activated it by mistake. In either case, your location is automatically passed to emergency services. Read more about how to do it with an Apple Watch here!