One of the key events that lead to the formation of the MCSA is an incident in September 1889 in which a party was caught by the infamous ‘table cloth’ on Table Mountain and 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 is involved in hundreds of operations every year, providing specialist support to government agencies as well as taking the lead role in organising and executing search and rescue operations.


If in trouble in the mountains contact the nearest emergency number as listed here:


Currently MCSA search and rescue comprises of 5 permanent Search and Rescue teams in various parts of the country. The MCSA Search and Rescue teams are all 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 – wsar.org.za ), Off Road Rescue Unit (sarza.co.za ), the SA Police Service (SAPS), South African Search and Rescue Organisation (SASAR) – sasar.gov.za) and others. Team members include mountaineers, medical professionals (e.g. paramedics and doctors), guides, rope access and high-angle professionals in addition to volunteers occupying a wide range of professions in their daily lives. 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: 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 teams involvement in search and rescue is provided 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 under the direction and request of the SAPS.


The Mountain Club is justified in being proud of the contributions made over many years by our volunteer search and rescue teams. In recent years, these volunteer teams have had to develop and practice particular skills, not needed in the past, in order to assist with helicopter rescue and recovery. This has been in close collaboration with the SAAF and their equally highly trained pilots and winch operators.

The key role our Mountain Rescue Teams play in assisting with aeronautical incidents, particularly in mountainous terrain, has resulted in official recognition as part of the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) which falls under SASAR which in turn falls under the Department of Transport (DoT). DoT provides the MCSA with an annual grant to contribute to maintaining our preparedness to respond to aeronautical incidents.

Join a Mountain Rescue Team

Are you are a climber, hiker or paramedic and want to give something back to the community? Then joining one of our local teams might be the thing for you. You need to be physically fit and have time on your hands to join regular training sessions. You must be able to work well in teams and greater organisational structures. Please have a look on our rescue contacts page which team is the closest to you and contact the convenor of that team who will be able to advise how you may be able to contribute.