Trapped and injured, he has spent a week underground.
But Johann Westhauser is now being gently stretchered to the surface of Germany’s deepest cave in a delicate and dangerous operation.
The 52-year-old suffered head wounds in a rock fall, 1,000 metres underground in the cave, which he himself helped to discover.
A doctor has been able to reach him, along with other rescue workers.
“The patient has been carried for eleven hours,” said rescue worker Stefan Schneider
“The team is exhausted and is taking a rest. But an Italian team is expected very soon. They will take over and the trip will continue.”
Westhauser was exploring the Riesending cave – the name means ‘massive thing’ – with two companions when the accident happened in southern Germany near Berchtesgaden by the Austrian border.
One stayed with him. The other spent 12 hours climbing through the steep shafts and narrow tunnels to raise the alarm.
More than 200 people from several countries are involved in the rescue effort, with teams taking it in turn to carry Westhauser to the surface, in a mission set to take several more days to complete.