Pietermaritzburg – Rescurers are yet to find a single trace of the young hiker who went missing in the Drakensberg nearly two weeks ago.
The parents of Mark Gerber (25), meanwhile, have broken their silence, describing their son as someone who was passionate about hiking in the Drakensberg.
In a statement, issued through the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA), Ben and Jean Grobler, said Mark was an engineering geologist “on the brink of a promising career.”
“As a family, we are heartbroken. We have beautiful memories. We would like to thank the rescuers involved in the search. They put in an enormous effort,” the short statement read.
Gerber (25), of Centurion, left for a hike along the Mlamonja Valley, from Cathedral Peak Hotel, on December 26.
He planned to ascend through the pass to Twins Cave and to return along the same route, reaching the hotel on December 29.
When he failed to return the MCSA, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the police began an intensive search. Two helicopters were deployed during search operations, one of which crashed causing minor injuries to its occupants.
– Read more: Extensive search for missing hiker
The search was scaled down significantly last Wednesday, but the MCSA confirmed that teams will continue searching for the next few weeks.
Ben and Jean came down to the Drakensberg for a few days while rescue operators searched for Mark, but returned to Centurion on Sunday, the MCSA said.
Over the weekend, search teams combed the Twins Cave area after receiving some information from a hiking party that Mark may have hiked there.
“A SAAF Oryx was planned to be in the area for recovery of the crashed SAP helicopter. This made it possible to deploy a team of three SAPS K9 dog Search and Rescue teams and four MCSA Rescue team members,” the MCSA said.
The team conducted a “thorough search” around Twins Cave, the Bell Traverse area and the Mlambonja Pass, but found no trace of the missing hiker.
A member of the team, Warrant Officer Karl Gous, was cut while searching, and required six stitches when they had finished searching.
The MCSA said previously that it was unlikely that, if found, Gerber would still be alive.
This is the second tragic incident along Drakensberg hiking routes during the festive period. The body of an elderly Australian national was recovered on December 29.
– Read more: Australian hiker’s body found in Drakensberg
Police are working with the Australian embassy to identify the man.