Injured British climber survives for six days on freezing mountain ledge

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The Independent Online

A British charity worker who fractured his hip while mountain-walking survived for six days on a snowy ledge in Asturias, Spain, by drinking his own urine and keeping faith that his mother would alert rescue services when he failed to turn up at her house on time.

Paul Beck, 33, from Denmark Hill in south London, was walking in the Picos de Europa in the north of the country when he slipped on ice last Tuesday. He tried to reach safety by shuffling on his backside down the hill, but tumbled a further 100 metres and sought refuge on a tiny ledge.

Last night in hospital, he will have been celebrating his common sense.Although the cold killed off his mobile phone battery - and with it the chance of rescuers gaining a satellite fix on his exact position - Mr Beck had told his girlfriend where he would be walking each day, allowing rescuers to find him.

Quite how he survived temperatures as low as -10C appeared to be a mystery. He had a tent but no room to pitch it, so struggled into a bivvy bag. He had food but only a litre of water and was scared of making a fire to melt snow in case he set light to his clothing.

Unable to move, he had been urinating into a cup to keep himself dry. Desperation drove him to drink his own urine. "I became so worried about being dehydrated I decided to drink it," he said, describing the experience as "pretty awful... salty and not nice" - a simple matter of survival.

He spent the first two nights whistling and banging but fatigue set in. He remained convinced, however, that his mother, expecting him at her home in La Coruña on Friday, would raise the alarm. On Saturday she did, and a helicopter from the Civil Guard Mountain Rescue Team swept into view on Sunday. "I am a very lucky man," he added. Civil guard rescue officers said his survival was "heroic" and unprecedented.

Mr Beck works for a homelessness charity, Thames Reach Bondway, providing housing support for people with a history of homelessness and mental health problems.