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Five hikers lost in the weekend’s snow prompt nighttime rescue from Serra da Estrela

Five hikers who ignored safety warnings made television news bulletins on Sunday after GNR rescue teams were scrambled to save them.

One – the only woman among the victims – was in such bad shape that she had to be carried down the mountain on a stretcher and ended up losing consciousness during her evacuation.

But the woman, named only as Sara from Setúbal, ended up making a full recovery and was released from Covilhã hospital a few hours later.

The group of walkers, all aged between 35 and 40, had “ignored GNR warnings” due to snowfall in the area, a police source told Correio da Manhã, and decided to set out on the well-known “Trilho de Mercadores”.

The path was in good enough condition, Nuno Mestre, one of the rescued walkers, later told the paper, but going was slow, and they ended up being “caught out by the night”.

Disoriented, tired and very cold, the five started calling for help at 5pm.

“Luckily the GNR knew where we were,” said Mestre. But even so, it took the mountain patrol four hours to reach them and conditions meant that they all had to spend the night in the Casa da Guarda (guard’s house) at one of the highest points of the mountain.

According to CM, by the time the GNR got to the hikers a thick snowstorm was raging, with wind gusts of up to 100 kph.

“Another half hour, and things could have turned out very differently,” a source commented.

The rescue saw police “redouble” warnings to weekenders keen to enjoy the snow, and the rest of the two-day period that saw Portugal “painted white” – including snowfall in Fóia, Monchique, in the Algarve – passed without major weather-related incidents.

“Thousands” turned out to frolic on the lower slopes of Serra da Estrela, nonetheless, and now temperatures are beginning to rise.

In the Algarve, meteorologists actually predict up to 22ºC during the day on Wednesday in Olhão and Tavira, though nights will still be cold (8ºC).

The rescue in Serra da Estrela came days after the Peneda-Gerês national park announced it would start charging “thoughtless” people if they called for help (click here).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com