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Woman missing in the Cairngorms says she has a ‘new appreciation of life’ after night under crag

Justina Kolberg sheltered for the night at Ben Macdui.
Justina Kolberg sheltered for the night at Ben Macdui.

A woman who sheltered in a stone crag overnight after getting caught out in bad weather while climbing in the Cairngorms has said she has a new zest for life.

Justina Kolberg, 32, set out to scale the 4,295ft Ben Macdui on Wednesday morning but later in the day just as she neared the summit, 100mph winds hit the area and she found herself disorientated.

A 50-strong multi-agency search set out to try to find the Edinburgh woman, and police issued a missing person alert on Thursday morning.

After looking on a map and locating a stone crag she told BBC Radio Scotland’s Lunchtime Live show she hid out for the night.

Ms Kolberg, from Edinburgh, said she thought she had a 50/50 chance of survival.

“I managed to turn west instead of north west, and I kept going thinking I was on the right path and by the time I realised I was on the wrong path it was too late for me to turn back.

“The day light was fading, and walking over the plateau would have been too dangerous due to the winds.”

She climbed under a crag that she found on her map. She said: “I didn’t allow myself to panic. I was very worried about family back home because I knew they would be worried.

Help arrives the following day

The Cairngorm MRT team found her the following day, “safe and well”.

But team leader Iain Cornfoot said she was very lucky to have found overnight shelter as the conditions deteriorated.

“It had been blustery conditions and she managed to make her way to a bothy on the Cairngorm plateau,” he said.

“She did well to do that. Wind speeds at the summit reached 115mph and there were regular gusts of 100mph.

“It was a cold night for her and when we found her she was cold. The temperature this morning was -2C and with the wind chill -15C.

“But it was the wind that was the problem. She was probably not well equipped for the conditions.”

Surviving the night

Ms Kolberg says she managed to doze off a few times during the night, but wanted to keep moving to maintain body temperature.

Describing the night as “harrowing”, the Edinburgh resident now feels as though the incident has given her “perspective” on some of life’s more trivial matters.

“I thought there would be frost bite damage, but halfway through the night I realised I was still intact, and I thought I might survive the whole night,” she said.

She continued: “When morning came and I could move my hands and feet I was like ‘this is a very good outcome’.

“The winds were absolutely crazy throughout the whole night. I was very cold but I had lots of layers and that was definitely very, very useful.

“I dozed off a couple of times. Mostly I was trying to stay awake to move around to maintain my body temperature. So not too much sleep at all.

“It was a very harrowing evening, something to learn from. It gave me a perspective on the little things one would complain about. Life is worth living and trying.

“I didn’t want it to stop then, gosh there are so many things I wish I could do.”

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