Mono Search and Rescue Operations

The following accounts of field operations are the best efforts of the newsletter editor or other source person, are not official reports, and may have errors and omissions, for which apologies and regrets are expressed in advance.

This page will generally contain only operations that have occurred within approximately the past twelve months. All operations can be found in the yearly highlight pages.


October 15-18, 2016, 16-572, #34 A party of five men from Tehachapi went out in high winds in a small boat on June Lake. The boat filled with water and sank. Two were able to swim to shore. The Team responded along with several other agencies, and searched the lake and shore. The boat and 3 deceased subjects were found mid-day on Tuesday October 18. Responders were: Vetter, Luke Hammack, Guffey, and Taj Hammack. (62 man hours)

Sheriff Office Press Release

Inca, a specially trained dog, assisted with the search - Lyon County Search & Rescue
Inca, a specially trained dog, assisted with the search - Lyon County Search & Rescue

On the morning of Saturday, October 15, 2016, five men took their personal boat out on June Lake. Winds were blowing strong from the west, and the water was very choppy. Sometime near 10:00 a.m. the boat began taking on water, and the boat capsized and sank. None of the boaters were wearing life jackets. Two of the men made it to shore, but the other three could not be found. First responders searched both on the water and from the shore until daylight was lost. The two surviving men were medically treated and released. The recovery effort continued at daybreak on Sunday morning, with searchers again on the water and the shore. The search ensued as long as weather and daylight permitted through Sunday, Monday and into Tuesday morning. Family members gathered in June Lake and awaited news of their loved ones. At approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, the boat and all three bodies were located near the middle of June Lake. Divers successfully recovered all of them, and the family was notified of their recovery.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Emergency Operations Dive Rescue
San Bernardino County Sheriff Emergency Operations Dive Rescue

All of the men are from Tehachapi and are related to one another. The surviving men are Caleb Crouch, age 22; and John Langston, also age 22. The deceased are Doug Langston, age 46; Caleb Johnson, age 21; and Jacob Langston, age 14.

We especially want to acknowledge the agencies who assisted: San Bernardino County Sheriff Emergency Operations Dive Rescue, Mono County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Lyon County Search and Rescue, Mary Cablk and Inca, June Lake Fire Department, Lee Vining Fire Department, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, Mono County Paramedics, US Forest Service and Sierra Lifeflight. Also many thanks to the local businesses who supported our efforts and cared for the families: Boulder Lodge, June Lake Marina, Double Eagle Resort, Hideaway Condominiums, Fern Creek Lodge, Stellar Brew, Trouttown Joe’s, Looney Bean Coffee in Bishop, O’Hana’s 395, Big Rock Resort, June Lake Ski Area. We apologize for anyone we may have overlooked. The community of June Lake and all of Mono County truly wrapped their arms around the families and the first responders and took great care of us during this tragedy. The families expressed repeatedly how loved and cared for they felt.

Mono County Sheriff Command Center
Mono County Sheriff Command Center

September 30, 2016. Mutual Aid to Yosemite, #33 Since September 26, Yosemite SAR has been searching for a missing 74-year-old man whose vehicle was found at the White Wolf Campground. Mutual aid was requested. The search has been suspended. Responder: Vetter (10 hours).


September 24, 2016, 16-528, #32 A party of two from Southern California were climbing Dana Couloir when rock fall occurred. A rock hit the female climber on her right forearm, causing a possible fracture. She then slid down the couloir injuring her right ankle. The male was hit by another rock on the head, knocking him out for approximately 5 minutes, and splitting his climbing helmet. The climbers were able to descend the couloir and hiked to Dana Lake where they activated their satellite communicator (DeLorme Inreach). CHP helicopter H20 extracted both climbers from Dana Lake to Lee Vining airport where Mono County paramedics transported them to Mammoth Hospital. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), Casabian (IC), Maxwell, Endo, Brodbeck, Shelby Pracht, Cucura, Drake, Guffey, Greene, Hartstrom, and DeGeorge.


September 20, 2016, 16-518, #31 A packer hired to take a party of hunters into the Eagle Creek drainage above Buckeye Canyon became suddenly very ill. The party called 911 and the SAR Team responded with the Polaris Ranger and Rescue 3. Care Flight 3 from Minden was able to land nearby, and was able to extract the subject for medical care. Responders were: Luke Hammack (Ops), Pelichowski (IC), Greene, DeGeorge, Cucura, and Robertson.


September 9, 2016, 16-491, #30 A hiker called 911 about 3 PM because he had been separated from his party and was lost near Gem Lake. He and 4 other friends were in June Lake visiting from Bakersfield. At about 0800, he and his friends decided to hike to Gem Lake to fish. The subject stated he was not an experienced hiker, nor was he experienced with the terrain. He also stated he was stuck on a steep ledge and could not move. The SAR Team responded to the June Mountain parking lot in anticipation of CHP helicopter H20 landing there and providing transport of rescuers to Gem Lake Subsequent text messaging with the subject about 7:30 PM revealed that he had figured out how to get off the ledge, had found the trail, and was no longer in need of rescue. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Casabian (IC), Endo, Case, Gilbreath, Drake, Shelby Pracht, and Hartstrom.


September 8, 2016, 16-490, #29 At 11:30 the subjects told a camper at the trailhead for Walker Lake (Bloody Canyon) that they were going for a 4 to 5 hour hike. Around sunset the camper had not seen the subjects return to their car, and called 911. The SAR team arrived at 2200 and field teams conducted a hasty search then searched the trailhead down to the lake, a use trail to a cross country route, the ridge to the east, and up the Bloody Canyon trail toward Mono Pass. After receiving information that the subjects were experienced mountaineers, the search was suspended at 0200. Responders were: Luke Hammack (Ops), Pelichowski (IC), Ackerman - with K9 Takoda, Endo, Vianzon, Brodbeck, Robertson, Greene, and DeGeorge


September 8, 2016, 16-489, #28 A 51 year old woman from New Hampshire fell while backpacking approximately 1 mile south of Donohue pass, injuring her left ankle and right knee. She was unable to walk out due to her injuries. The RP, an unrelated backpacker who came upon injured party, continued hiking after calling for help using a cell phone. The SAR Team responded to Minaret Vista and requested CHP Helicopter H40 for extraction. The subject was picked up by H40 and flown to the Minaret Vista helispot. She was transported by County Paramedics to Mammoth Hospital for treatment. Responder: Greene.


August 21-22, 2016, 16-455, #27 On Sunday, August 21, at approximately 4:15 p.m., the Mono County Sheriff's Office received a call regarding an adult male who had jumped into a pool above the Lower Rainbow Falls (located in Madera County). It was reported that the male was floating face down in the water. Extremely cold water temperatures and underwater current prevented witnesses from reaching the victim. A second victim was sitting at the bottom of a steep incline near the pool. The second victim had attempted to rescue the first victim, but was suffering from hypothermia as a result of being in the water which was estimated to be 45 degrees. Mono County Sheriff Deputies, Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team, Mono County Paramedics, and Mammoth Lakes Fire Department responded and were able to rescue the second victim. Efforts to rescue the first victim were unsuccessful as the victim was submerged in the pool and was no longer visible to emergency personnel. Recovery efforts were put on hold as darkness fell as a safety precaution. The SAR team staffed the scene overnight until recovery efforts resumed the following morning. On August 22, at approximately 11:00 a.m., the decedent was recovered by Madera County Sheriff's Department, Mono County Sheriff' Office, Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department. The Mammoth Mountain Ski Area provided personnel and logistical support for the recovery effort. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), Casabian (IC), Thompson, Drake, Vianzon, Greene, Kaukola, Case, Viren Perumal, Wenzlau, and Traxler.

Ops 16-455 Rainbow Falls
Ops 16-455 Rainbow Falls


August 13, 2016, 16-437, #26 A 23 year-old man from San Marino, California had been cliff diving into Arrowhead Lake when he sustained injuries. He jumped from approximately 40 feet above the water, but struck a tree on the way down before hitting the water. He was able to reach shore, but he was unable to return to his vehicle at the trailhead due to the injuries he incurred. The Rescue Team responded to the scene, along with Mono County Paramedics. He was transported to the Duck Pass trailhead using a wheeled litter, and was taken to Mammoth Hospital for treatment of his injuries. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Casabian (IC), Cowan, Viren Perumal, Denton, Thompson, Cucura, Case, Ron Hall, Drake, and Hartstrom.


August 12, 2016, 16-428, #25 A 17 year old female from Santa Margarita, CA sustained an ankle injury near the inlet of Shadow Lake, and was unable to walk. The call initiated with the Madera County Sheriff, who requested aid from CHP helicopter H40 and the Mono County SAR team. H40 picked up a SAR member at the Minaret Vista LZ, and landed him on the mud flats near Shadow Lake. He located and packaged the subject for a hoist operation. Another Team member hiked in to assist in carrying out the subject's backpack. Meanwhile H40 landed at nearby Ruby Lake and picked up a 28 year old woman from Fairbanks, Alaska who had an injured right foot. She had been married just four days prior, and was on her honeymoon. She was taken to Minaret Vista by H40. H40 then returned to Shadow Lake and hoisted up the first subject and took her to Minaret Vista where she was met by her father, who signed a medical release form and stated he was transporting her to Mammoth Hospital. H40 returned to Ruby Lake to pick up the subject's husband and took him to Minaret Vista to join his rescued wife. They used public transportation to seek medical care. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Minder (IC), Greene, and Denton.


Ops 16-426 near Cascade Lake

August 10, 2016, 16-426, #24 A 20 year old man from Marita, CA and his father were hiking in the Saddlebag Lake area, above Cascade Lake. While in steep terrain, attempting to get to the top of the ridge line, he slipped on rocks and vegetation and fell approximately twenty feet. He injured both ankles in the fall, with a possible broken left ankle.

Guide staff from the Saddlebag Lake Resort came to his location and assessed carrying him out to the resort but were unable to do so due to distance and terrain. They then radioed the resort for assistance. A staff member had to leave the resort (no phone) to contact the Sheriff's Department Dispatch Center and report the incident.

Fifteen Team members responded to the call. A hasty team hiked to the subject's location at 10,660 feet to begin a patient assessment while other ground teams brought in a wheeled litter.

Following the medical assessment, the victim's leg was splinted. He was transported down in the litter about 600 feet of elevation to Saddlebag Lake, then taken to the resort by boat.

He signed a medical waiver and his father took him to Mammoth Hospital for treatment. Responders were: Leyen (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Ron Hall, Luke Hammack, Greene, Viren Perumal, Denton, Endo, Hartstrom, Julie Perumal, Drake, Case, Robertson, Barnum, and Traxler.


Ops 16-426 near Cascade Lake
Ops 16-426 near Cascade Lake
Ops 16-426 Thank You note

August 5, 2016, 16-413, #23 A hiker on the River Trail out of Agnew Meadows encountered a 60 year old female backpacker from Cobb, CA. in distress near the river crossing below Shadow Lake. Intending to backpack to Yosemite, her husband had dropped her off at the trailhead the day before. She was disoriented and seemed to be dehydrated. She had a very large 60 pound pack, had only hiked a mile and a half that day, and was not able to continue her trip. The RP called 911 to get help. Due to the location in remote Madera County, with no rapid response available from their rescue resources, the Team sent two members who hiked to the subject and joined the RP and others who were assisting her back to the Agnew Meadows trail head. Her husband came to pick her up. She was advised to hydrate and not to attempt a backpacking trip with heavy weight. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops and IC), Greene, and Cucura.


August 3, 2016, 16-407, #22 A 46 year old man from Berkeley, CA was attempting to climb a gully to the top of a ridge line above West Lake at 11,400 feet. He traversed into an area with a large amount of large, loose sliding rocks above a snow field. He was unable to move up or down without triggering a rock slide he feared might carry him onto the snowfield and severe injury. It was late in the day and he felt he could not maintain his position into the night without falling. He then called 911 for help. His call was received by CHP dispatch and was transferred to the Mono County Dispatch Center who verified the location at 38.08617700, 119.346199 to be within Mono County near the Tuolumne Mono County Border above the Green Creek area. The California Highway Patrol was contacted for assistance and the aircrew of H-40 was briefed on the situation. The area was over 11,400 in altitude so the crew stripped their aircraft of excess weight, and flew to the area and located the victim on the steep slope, but was unable to perform a hoist operation due to the high altitude. Eight Team members staged at Lee Vining airport. A ground team was inserted by H40 on the ridge above the victim while additional air resources were requested from California OES. The ground team descended to the subject's location and helped him down out of the hazard area with aid of a fixed rope. Helicopter Lasso 4 from Lemoore Naval Air Station landed and transported the subject and rescuers to Bridgeport Airport. The subject was not injured in the incident. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops and IC), Greene, Luke Hammack, Viren Perumal, Cucura, Barnum, and Brodbeck.

Ops 16-407 location map
Ops 16-407 Stranded climber above West Lake
Ops 16-407 Stranded climber above West Lake

Click Here For More Ops 16-407 Pictures


August 1, 2016, 16-397, #21 At 1100 the Team was called out to aid a 23 year old man from Texas with an ankle injury near Donahue Pass at 10,600 feet. Helo resources were requested and a ground team assembled at the Rush Creek trailhead. CHP helicopter H-20 out of Auburn was able to land near the subject and fly him to Mammoth Lakes airport. Mono County paramedics took him to Mammoth Hospital for treatment. Thanks are due to SCE technicians who were enroute to activate the tram and boat facilities to assist in inserting ground teams. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Pelichowski (IC), Dodson, Endo, and Greene.


July 31, 2016, 16-xxx, #20 The team responded to a mutual aid request from Alpine County, searching for a 71-year-old woman who was last seen walking away from her campsite near Lake Alpine about 2 p.m. July 28. Responder: Luke Hammack (21 hours).


July 26, 2016, 16-383, #19 The Team was called to aid a 55 year old injured woman from Santa Cruz. She was hiking in the Carnegie Institute area west of Saddlebag Lake with her husband and son. She fell striking her lower left leg/knee on a rock and sustained an injury there. Her husband splinted the injury but she was unable to walk out of the area or bear weight without high pain. Her husband then went to the Yosemite National Park entrance and called 911 for help. Ten team members responded and staged at the Junction Campground. Field teams hiked in and found the subject south west of the Carnegie Institute. Following a medical assessment, she was placed in a wheeled litter and transported back to the trail head. At the conclusion of the carry out, she signed a release of liability and would seek further medical treatment on her own. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops and IC), Robertson, Luke Hammack, Greene, Endo, Barnum, Dodson, Traxler, Viren Perumal, and Ackerman.

Ops 16-383 Thank You note

July 23, 2016, 16-376, #18 At 1630 Sheriff deputies were called to Convict Lake for a report of a party of 11 overdue hikers. The hikers were to have returned by mid-afternoon. The 3 reporting parties, who had separated from the group and hiked out earlier, were concerned because the overdue hikers were not prepared for a long hike. According to the RP's the overdue hikers had very little water, no emergency gear, were inexperienced and were not in the physical condition to do the hike from Mildred Lake. Deputies questioned runners that were on the trail and did a visual search of the immediate area. With no sign of the overdue hikers, Mono County Sheriff SAR was called to do a search up the Convict Lake trail. Before SAR teams could be launched, all 11 overdue hikers arrived at Convict Lake. No injuries or medical issues reported. Call ended 19:15. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), Pelichowski (IC), DeGeorge, Greene, Case, Hartstrom, Cowan, Robertson, Viren Perumal, and Buccowich.


July 20, 2016, 16-369, #17 On July 20, 2016 at about 3:30pm, the Mono County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call regarding a 21 year old female injured solo hiker from Canada. She who had possibly suffered a sprained ankle along with dehydration, altitude sickness and exhaustion. She was reported to be on the Pacific Crest Trail near Leavitt Lake within Mono County, and had been immobilized because of her injuries and declining health. The location was reported to be 38.28171000, -119.644504. Mono County Deputies along with members from the Mono County Search and Rescue and Tuolumne County Search and Rescue Teams were called out. CHP Helicopter H-20 was requested and responded from the CHP Valley Division located in Auburn, CA. A landing zone (LZ) was established at the Caltrans Yard located at Highway 395 and Highway 108. At about 5:20pm, the helicopter crew located the victim on the PCT, and was able to land and safely extract the subject. She was flown to the LZ where Mono County Paramedics were awaiting her arrival. The Mono County Paramedics later transported the victim to the Carson Valley Medical Center where she was treated for her injuries. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Casabian (IC), DeGeorge, Hartstrom, Greene, Cucura, and Ron Hall.


The team at the PCT/Leavitt Lake hiker rescue

July 19, 2016, 16-363, #16 At 1030, the SAR team was called out for an injured female hiker from Louisiana on the PCT. The hiking partner stated they had been on the PCT for about a week. When the subject lifted her pack that morning to put it on, she rolled her ankle on a rock. The call was made by a passerby who climbed to the top of the hill for cell service. After calling 911 the RP continued on her way. A hasty team was launched, aided by the Polaris Ranger ATV, which got them close to the summit of the old road. They proceeded on foot for another mile, locating the subject and did a medical assessment. Three SAR members from Tuolumne County were also transported to the summit. During that time the hasty team had packaged and carried the subject back to the pickup point. Tuolumne SAR then proceeded back to base on foot, so the Ranger ATV would have space to carry the subject and her hiking partner back to base. Mono County Medic One transported the subject to Carson Valley for medical care. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Vetter (Ops), Casabian (IC), Luke Hammack, Beck, and Ron Hall.


July 16, 2016, 16-357, #15 MLFD-3397 and Medic 3 requested assistance on a 1.5 mile carry out from Rainbow Falls lookout point to Rainbow Falls trail head for a 51 year old female from Los Angeles who had broken her right ankle dismounting her horse. Upon dismounting her horse the saddle slipped and she fell to the ground breaking her right ankle. Two packers working for the Reds Meadow Pack Station were with the subject, witnessed the fall, and called 911 for assistance. Mono SAR reached the trail head just prior to MLFD and Paramedics exiting and were able to assist the last 300 yards. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Greene, Endo, Shelby Pracht, Kaukola, Traxler, and Ron Hall.


July 15, 2016, 16-xxx, #14 A male subject reported he was unable to find his way in the dark back to his camp at Minaret Lake. The Ops leader had text messaging contact with the subject during the night from 0300 to 0800 when Unified Command was assumed by Madera County Sheriff and Mono County Sheriff. The subject made a phone call to Madera County Sheriff stating that he was no longer in need of assistance. Responders were: Greene (Ops), and Krystyl Hansen (IC).


Ops 16-348 - If you look carefully you can see the team rigging lowering system above cliffs
Ops 16-348 - If you look carefully you can see the team rigging lowering system above cliffs

July 10, 2016, 16-348, #13 At approximately 1307, Search and Rescue was requested by Mammoth Fire to assist with getting two men and a dog off of a small cliff near Mammoth Rock.

A man was walking his dog near Mammoth Rock when his dog chased a rabbit down a ravine. He and a friend climbed down into the ravine to retrieve the dog and became trapped on a ledge, unable to go up or down safely with the dog.

He called 911 for help. SAR personnel and Mammoth Fire personnel set up a rope system and lowered both men and the dog to safety, where they were able to hike out. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), Greene, Robertson, and Pelichowski (IC - unified command with MLFD chief).


June 26, 2016, 16-319, #12 The Team was called at 0630 to aid a 27 year old man who complained of hip and knee pain and wanted assistance to get out of the back country. His group of hikers in the Granite Staircase area had gotten separated and off trail when headed down Stairway Creek. They bivied at 37.579497, -119.133167. The next morning the rest of the group arrived and was able to assist the subject, so the SAR Team was not needed. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), K Hansen (IC), Dodson, Case, and Guffey.


June 25, 2016, 16-318, #11 A request came from the Madera County Sheriff Department to assist a 61 year old woman and her dog near the Fern lake Trail. She had started on a day hike at approximately 11 am but had twice lost her way coming back from Fern lake. Madera County Sheriff Department sent her a map via her phone and she was able to find her way back to the trail. She had cell service throughout the call so kept in regular contact with Madera County and the Mono SAR ops leader. She had very little water and food, no flashlight, and no warm clothing. She had become very tired, dehydrated, hungry, cold, and panicky. She felt she needed assistance crossing Kings Creek because of her condition and dissipating light. She was found at 2257. She refused any medical assessment or medical care. She was given food, water, warm clothing, and was assisted across the creek and to the trailhead back to her car. Responders were: Barnum (Ops), Vetter, Guffey, Cucura, Hartstrom, Dodson, and Greene.


Ops 16-251 - Subject treated and packaged for transport
Ops 16-251 - Subject treated and packaged for transport

May 19, 2016, 16-251, #10 On Thursday May 19 at 1700, the Team was called for a day hiker who had fallen while scrambling on some rocks near Rush Creek Falls.

June Lake Fire had already dispatched four members to access the scene and attend to the subject's injuries.

It was determined that the patient would need full body stabilization and that the extraction would include some pitches requiring roped low angle lowerings.

Team members hiked in with the necessary gear via the Edison tram tracks.

After 4 pitches of roped lowerings the Team reached the trail and wheeled the subject out to the Silver Lake Resort where he was met by Paramedics and transported to Mammoth Hospital.

Responders were: Corning (Ops), Minder (IC), Greene, Luke Hammack, Barnum, Robertson, Hartstrom, Drake, Brodbeck, Wenslau, DeGeorge, and Endo.


Low angle technical rope techniques used to lower subject down slope
Low angle technical rope techniques used to lower subject down slope
Low angle technical rope techniques used to lower subject down slope
Low angle technical rope techniques used to lower subject down slope

May 13-15, 2016, 16-242, #9 On Friday May 13 at 1430, the Team was notified of a missing 27 year old man from Orange County. He disappeared from their family camp on the shore of Crowley Lake. He was last seen about midnight by the other 3 in the party but they didn't realize he was missing until morning. Ground teams, a dog team, Ranger ATV, and CHP Helicopter H40 searched Friday. On Saturday ground teams, Ranger ATV, Sheriff boat teams, and a dive team from Eldorado County searched from 0700 to 1700 when strong winds hindered divers. On Sunday ground, dive, Ranger ATV, CHP helicopter, dog, and boat searches continued until 1430 when the Sheriff suspended the search. 313 man hours were volunteered by the SAR Team. Responders were: Vetter (Ops), Corning (Ops), Estridge (IC), Barnum, Holt, Vianzon, Gilbreath, Ackerman, Greene, Tonseth, Traxler, Brad Schilz, Kaukola, Guffey, Denton, Felix, Brodbeck, Drake, Bold, Hartstrom, Beck, DeGeorge and Wenzlau.

UPDATE: The subject's body was recovered from Crowley Lake on May 22, 2016.

Helicopter search for missing person
Boat search for missing person

Search dogs were used to search for missing person
Team member gears up for missing person search


April 25, 2016, 16-215, #8 At 1130 SAR was called for a group of three overdue backcountry telemark skiers in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. They were due out on the 24th at noon, the RP was concerned because she had not heard from them since Thursday and they were now 24 hours overdue. As the ops team went to work determining their route, making plans, and working up resources for a search launch, the group walked out on their own at 1630. Responders were: Vetter (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Corning, Leyen, Robertson and Barnum.


April 1, 2016, 16-173, #7 The Team responded to the town of Mammoth Lakes to assist in an evidence search. Line searches were conducted in high probability areas along each side of the roadway. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops), Greene, Corning, Vetter, Cucura, Carole Schilz, Barnum, and Brad Schilz.


Location photo

March 8, 2016, 16-128 #6 While descending Pete's Dream on Carson Peak, at around 1:30pm, at approximately 10,200’, a party of three skiers and one snowboarder came to a narrow choke section with a slope of about 40 degrees. 2 skiers skied thru safely one at a time and anchored up in safe location below.

The 3rd skier was part way down when he triggered a slope failure which propagated about 100ft above him releasing a slab avalanche with a crown of 14-18” across the width of the slope (~50ft wide). This swept him off his feet, carried him violently down the chute for approximately 300-400 vertical feet, smashed him into a diagonal rockwall breaking his ankle, before he was able to fight his way back ontop of his skis and make it left out of the avalanche to a zone of safety as the avalanche continued down-slope and over large cliffs.

The snowboarder descended, the party regrouped, and they initiated a call to Search and Rescue and a helicopter evacuation.

The injured skier was able to ski down with assistance from the others to an area they believed a helicopter would be able to access. Of note during this part of the decent, the party kicked off numerous additional very sensitive small windlsab avalanches (crowns 4-6”).

After 30-45minutes of huddling together trying unsuccessfully to keep the injured skier warm, the party decided that based on the windy conditions and the uncertainty of how long a helicopter would take to arrive (and if it did if it would actually be able to assist them in these windy conditions) they decided to self-evacuate.

Despite being in immense pain, the injured skier was able to make it down this challenging terrain on one ski with the assistance of his partners, until they met search and rescue personnel with a rescue litter a few hundred yards above double eagle resort. It took approximately 4 hours from the time of the accident to the time the injured skier was in an ambulance.

Thirteen SAR team members and CHP helicopter H40 staged at the June Mountain parking lot. The helicopter flew a recon of the area and determined the group with the injured skier had descended low enough on the mountain that a ground team could reach them and an air operation would not be necessary. The ground team hiked in and met them. After a medical assessment, the victim was packaged in a litter and transported down to the road to Mono County Paramedics for further medical treatment. Responders were: Corning (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Greene, Dodson, Leyen, Luke Hammack, Tajia Hammack, Guffey, Endo, Cucura, Tonseth, Buccowich and Beck.


Carson Peak evacuation
Carson Peak evacuation

Report from The Sheet newspaper:

Local skier survives avalanche scare on Carson Peak

Local resident Brett Lotz survived a slab avalanche on the Carson Peak line Pete's Dream on Tuesday, March 8, managing to ski his way out of the slide and suffering only a broken ankle.

Lotz, 39, who was accompanied by two other expert skiers and one expert snowboarder, had skied the line numerous times, according to a report by the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center's Josh Feinberg.

Feinberg, who is an ESAC forecaster, reported, "A very active natural cycle of avalanches took place throughout the region mostly early Sunday morning during the intense snow and wind load period," and that more snow had been deposited Saturday through Monday.

Feinberg reported that the party had viewed the line from the road and made note of a natural avalanche. "This gave them a sense of reassurance that avalanche danger would be now lessened as they could see it had already slid."

After beginning their descent from the peak around 12:30 p.m., the skiers produced several avalanches with ski cuts. One cut "produced a larger avalanche with [approximately] 8-10" crown which… appeared to 'clean out' the majority of the line below. This result again gave the party a sense of reassurance…," Feinberg wrote.

When the party approached a choke section of Pete's Dream, with an approximately 40 degree slope, two of the skiers navigated the section one at a time and anchored below. Lotz was the third person to approach the section. Feinberg wrote that Lotz "triggered a slope failure which propagated about 100 [feet] above him releasing a slab avalanche…This swept him off his feet, carried him violently down the chute for approximately 300-400 vertical feet, smashed him into a diagonal rockwall (sic), breaking his ankle, before he was able to fight his way back on top of his skis and make it left out of the avalanche to a zone of safety as the avalanche continued down-slope and over large cliffs."

"This avalanche was triggered when the 3rd skier presumably hit a 'sweet spot' where the overlying wind slab was less thick and the weight and force of his skiing was enough to penetrate through and cause a failure in the weakness between this newer windslab and the underlying snow."

Feinberg said the experienced party saw in hindsight the folly of the decision to ski Carson Peak at that time. "If you talked to them, they said, 'we shouldn't have gone out there, that was a dumb idea.'"

"Hopefully the fact that [Lotz] wasn't seriously hurt can be a reminder, a good heads up to give respect to the winds of the Sierra. The power of the winds and how quickly conditions can change even in the span of a couple of hours. From something that can be safe to something that can be dangerous."

The party viewed the line from the road, but when they began their descent, winds had picked up and conditions changed. "If you think conditions are certain ways and you get up somewhere, you get to a point where it's kind of hard to turn around."

Notably, Lotz was wearing Dynafit bindings, with the toe in "locked up" position, Feinberg reported. In an accident two weeks prior, Dynafit bindings had been a subject of contention-24-year-old Aaron Shober was wearing Dynafit bindings to ski a challenging line, the "Ripper Chute," on Dana Plateau. Shober left his toe lever in the down/ski position "as recommended by Dynafit," reported Nate Greenberg, President of ESAC. His skis subsequently released, resulting in the loss of both skis and a 2,000 foot slide. Shober suffered a dislocated hip and was airlifted from the location.

In the Carson Peak incident, Feinberg wrote, "injured skier using Dynafit bindings, with toe in 'locked up' position. Both heals (sic) of bindings released, but toes did not. Perhaps if ski had completely released he wouldn't have had ankle broken, but also he may not have been able to ski out of avalanche, and very likely could have been swept over cliffs resulting in much worse injury or death."

"There's no right answer," Feinberg said when asked about the locking issue.

"If you're skiing something in avalanche danger where there's not cliffs involved, probably have them releasable. So if you're in a significant slide you want to be able to kick off your skis and if you can't kick them off they could weigh you down and lead to you getting buried. There's no definite answer."

"In general, in higher avalanche situations it's better to have the option to get rid of your equipment."

As the party self-rescued, with the others assisting Lotz, they triggered additional small avalanches.

Lotz was able to make it through the steep and technical terrain on one ski with assistance until he was met by June Mountain ski patroller and SAR volunteer Fletcher Buccowich several hundred yards above the Double Eagle Resort. Feinberg reported that it was approximately four hours from the time Lotz was injured until he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Mammoth Hospital.


February 21, 2016, 16-106 #5 The subject experienced a dislocated hip after taking a fall down Ripper Chute off the Dana Plateau. A team of two was inserted by CHP helicopter H40 to package the subject who was then hoisted by the helicopter and brought down to the Hwy #120 winter closure. The subject was taken by ambulance to Mammoth Hospital. The team snowshoed down to the road with the subject's two ski companions. After treatment the subject was released from the hospital later that evening. Responders were: Minder (Ops & IC), Thompson, Endo, Viren Perumal, Beck, Greene, Cucura, Luke Hammack, and Tajia Hammack

Report from The Sheet newspaper:

Accident on Dana Plateau’s Ripper Chute results in dislocated hip

Viren Perumal guides litter as it is hoised to CHP H40 Helicopter
Viren Perumal guides litter as it is hoised to CHP H40 Helicopter

A day of backcountry skiing turned into a frightening ordeal for Aaron Shober when the 24-year-old fell approximately 2,000 vertical feet on Sunday, Feb. 21 after his ski released in the Ripper Chute on Dana Plateau.

“It got kinda scary and he got really lucky,” said Nate Greenberg, who was skiing with Shober. Shober, who was airlifted by Mono County Search and Rescue, suffered a dislocated hip.

Greenberg, President of the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC), said the biggest message he and his fellow skiers took from that day was the need to be able to handle an emergency situation.

“You need to be self-sufficient, and you need to be prepared when all else fails to be able to handle the situation on your own with limited support from rescuers at least for some extended period of time,” Greenberg told The Sheet.

“At the most basic level that means wilderness first aid ... but then just understanding basic rescue protocol—how to not only administer first aid but to think about long-term strategies for patient comfort or extrication.”

Greenberg said the accident was a “wake up call” for him—his own Wilderness First Responder certification is about fifteen years old. He also said that though first aid is not what ESAC does on a daily basis, “at a minimum we think there needs to be an awareness campaign around that kind of stuff ... [and] how to better work with Search and Rescue.”

Greenberg prepared a statement in which he described the accident— another big lesson, he said, was knowing one’s gear. Shober did not lock out his Dynafit bindings before skiing the chute.

“As [Shober] landed his first hop turn his downhill ski released on him, followed almost immediately by his other ski,” wrote Greenberg. “Though he made several attempts to selfarrest using the Whippet he had, he was moving too fast and conditions were too firm.”

“Though he managed to avoid hitting either wall of the couloir, he did tumble over a small pile of rocks before going out of sight to the bottom of the couloir. We shouted to him several times but got no response. We collected his gear ... and headed down to find him ...”

Greenberg was able to call 911 from his cell phone and obtain helicopter support, he said. “The two Search and Rescue members and the two backcountry skiers hiked and skied out under light of the full moon,” wrote the Mono County Sheriff’s Office in a press release.

Shober was discharged from Mammoth Hospital later that evening.

Greenberg said he knows Dynafit users are divided on the subject of locking out bindings. “Certainly if you are skiing in avalanche terrain or in a scenario where you want your ski to come off in a fall, that is best,” he wrote. “But in conditions and terrain like we were skiing that day, when avalanche hazard is minimal yet the risk of losing a ski could result in serious injury or death, locking them out is probably the lesser of two evils.”

“Big lesson learnt here,” Shober wrote on the social media site Facebook.

“Thank you again to everyone involved who got me home safe.”

Getting organized at staging area on Highway 120
Getting organized at staging area on Highway 120

Viren Perumal discussing operation with helicopter pilot
Viren Perumal discussing operation with helicopter pilot

H40 helicopter at landing zone where team members were inserted
H40 helicopter at landing zone where team members were inserted

Dana Plateau Chutes
from Backcounty Skiing - California's Eastern Sierra ©Wolverine Publishing


Steve Romeo skiing the Ripper Chute in 2010
Steve Romeo skiing the Ripper Chute in 2010 ©tetonat.com
Natai Endo and Viren Perumal ready to go in H40 helicopter
Natai Endo and Viren Perumal ready to go in H40 helicopter

Subject hoisted to CHP H40 helicopter
Subject hoisted to CHP H40 helicopter

Climbing the Ripper Chute in 2010
Climbing the Ripper Chute in 2010 ©tetonat.com


February 14-16, 2016, 16-097 #4 On Sunday night February 14, Mono County dispatch received a 911 call from a 28 year old man from Santa Barbara who was lost in the White Mountains. The 911 call gave coordinates for the subject in the Millner Creek drainage. The Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team was called out at 11:30 PM, and made cell phone contact with the subject. He had ridden a motorcycle up to the Spark Plug mine area, and had then hiked to the summit of White Mountain Peak, but became disoriented on the descent and went into the wrong drainage. The subject was not prepared for a night out, wearing jeans and sneakers, but was able to start a fire and had enough fuel to last the night.

The Team drove to Sierra Vista with three snowmobiles, a Polaris Ranger, and two quad ATVs. The subject was advised to call 911 every hour so his progress toward the Barcroft station could be tracked. He made progress for two hours, then contact was lost. The snowmobiles had a difficult time finding enough snow to progress and were having to take circuitous routes. By mid-day the snow had softened to the point where the wheeled vehicles were getting stuck. After numerous digging and winching-outs, the wheeled vehicles could not continue, but stayed in the field to act as radio relay with the snowmobile teams.

When they reached Barcroft there was no sign of the subject. They continued on toward his point last known and found him still hiking near the observatory. He was then given a ride back to the Sierra Vista base. The snowmobiles logged 44 miles round trip.

One of the SAR Team members offered to give him a ride back to his motorcycle. The dirt road was very rough and rocky from flash floods last year; the Team member's vehicle blew out a tire and was not able to continue. The subject left at that time to hike back up to the mine to get his motorcycle and then ride out. Two Team members in the Polaris Ranger were able to navigate the washed out roads in the dark, and with the help of the White Mountain Ranch manager, reached the disabled vehicle and evacuated the Team member, but the rescued subject had not returned as planned.

The following morning SAR members returned to ensure that the lost subject was not lost again, and to extract the vehicle. The subject was encountered as he drove down from the mine. With a new tire the vehicle was successfully driven out. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Vetter, Beck, Hartstrom, Roski, Holt, Webb, Greene, Case, Holmquist, Schmidt, and Dodson


February 13, 2016, 16-096 #3 On Saturday February 13, the Team responded to rescue a 43 year old woman from Southern California who was with a guided group heading in to attempt a winter accent of Matterhorn Peak. Approximately 2 miles in from the Horse Creek trailhead at Twin Lakes Bridgeport, she displayed symptoms of stroke. Team members hiked in to her location to assist members of Bridgeport Fire who were already on scene. Litter transport was very slow due to icy conditions. CHP Helicopter H40 from Fresno arrived on scene and was able to extract the subject via winch and Bosun's chair. She was flown back to the Twin Lakes parking lot, and transferred to a Care Flight helicopter for transport to medical care in Reno. Responders were: Sgt. Minder (Ops & IC), Beck, Hartstrom, Ron Hall, Jon Hall, Dodson, Thompson, Corning, and Barnum.


January 13, 2016, 16-025 #2 On January 13 at 0914, the Sheriff's Department received a 911 call from a Livermore, CA man, age 24, stating that he was stuck on Paoha Island in Mono Lake. He told dispatch that he had departed from Navy Beach the prior morning at 0700, and kayaked to Negit then Paoha Island, where he set up camp. He indicated that while sleeping the winds began to blow at a high rate, which blew his tent away and destroyed it. He said he did not have enough supplies to make it through another night and was unable to kayak back to Navy Beach. A deputy responded, towing a Sheriff patrol boat to the launch ramp at the shrimp plant in Lee Vining, where he was met by a SAR Rescue Member and a Lee Vining Fire Department member. At 1100 the patrol boat launched on Mono Lake enroute to Paoha Island. At 1142 the subject was located on the Northeast side of the island and picked up. He was transported back to the launch ramp at the shrimp plant in good health and required no medical attention. He was given a ride back to his car at Navy Beach. Responders were: Luke Hammack, a Sheriff deputy, and a Lee Vining Fire Department member.

Here is a video by Luke Hammack of the boat ride.


January 10, 2016, 16-016 #1 A 37 year old Los Angeles man, while snowboarding with friends off of the backside of Mammoth Mountain, became separated from his companions. He contacted Mono County Sheriff via cell phone, and a rescue was started. Vetter, who was working at Tamarack that day, deployed two Tamarack snowmobiles to the Twin Lakes campground and Horseshoe Lake. His location was relayed as 37.618647/119.020514. He was found near the Bottomless Pit area and returned to his friends before 1700 hours. Responders were: Vetter (ops), and Corning.


November 28, 2015, 15-799 #44 Two men from Southern California rented snow shoes and hiked down from Main lodge at Mammoth Mountain. They became bogged down near Agnew Meadows, sinking 2-1/2 feet into the snow, and one of their snowshoe straps broke. They called 911 for assistance. Dispatch was able to provide a location which put them at the junction of Postpile Rd. and the turn-off to Agnew meadows. Three team members on three snowmobiles located and extracted the subjects, who were cold but otherwise OK. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Soucy, Beck, and Luke Hammack.


November 20-21, 2015, Mutual Aid 2015-LAW-20086 #43 On Thursday, November 19 the Sheriff's office received a request for mutual aid to help search for a missing hiker in the Mt. Whitney area. A Rescue Member responded on Friday to assist with the search, along with approximately 40 additional personnel from various other California rescue teams. Friday's search resulted in a helmet and beanie being located near avalanche debris on the slope to the west of Meysan Lake. A second Rescue Member responded on Saturday morning with the Team's Recco device and avalanche probes. They were inserted via California National Guard CH-47 helicopter to a LZ on the south shore of Meysan Lake, along with two avalanche dog teams and approximately 40 personnel for probing the debris field. The two Mono County members began searching the toe of the debris field with the Recco device, and started receiving detection signals within a few minutes of beginning their search pattern. The hiker was located deceased under approximately 18 inches of snow. Responders were: Luke Hammack and Greene.


November 20, 2015, 15-779 #42 Two hikers from Ventura, California called 911 for help. The two friends had attempted to summit Mt. Morrison, but reached a spot on a steep slope where they were unable to continue either up or down. The Team responded to the trailhead at Convict Lake and sent teams into the hikers' location. The field teams were able to assist them down from their location and escorted them back to their campsite. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Endo, Viren Perumal, Taj Hammack, Hartstrom, Leyen, Gilbreath, and Webb.


November 11, 2015, 15-755 #41 At 2000 the SAR Team was requested to assist Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol in locating an overdue snowboarder who lost his way near Fresno Bowl. The Peruvian native was reported overdue around 1630 hours although he was last seen at 1330. Ski Patrol followed his tracks to Sotcher Lake where the SAR team continued the search, locating the 39 year old snowboarder holed up in an impromptu shelter at midnight. He was returned to Main Lodge by 0100 in good condition and reunited with his friend. Responders were: Vetter (Ops), Corning, DeGeorge, Greene, Beck, Robertson, Gilbreath, Maxwell, Brodbeck, Taj Hammack, Luke Hammack, Jon Hall, and Drake.


November 2, 2015, 15-737 #40 Two Mammoth locals hiked out HWY 203 to Smuggler's Ridge to go snowboarding. They rode the ridge then became lost when they followed the wrong tracks at the bottom. They tried to use their cell phones to navigate back to the road but were unable to find it. They were able to call a friend, who called 911. They started a warming fire using one of the snowboards for fuel. Team snowmobiles were staged at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. The lost snowboarders were located, assessed, and transported back to the ski area. There were no injuries. Responders were: Greene (Ops), DeGeorge, and Robertson.


October 15, 2015, 15-695 #39 On Tuesday, 10/13/15 at 0730, the RP dropped her husband off at the Duck Pass trailhead after leaving his vehicle at his intended exit point, McGee Creek trailhead. The subject knew the area well and was expected to be out of the backcountry by Wednesday afternoon. When he had not returned to his vehicle by Thursday morning, Mono County Sheriff dispatch was contacted and the SAR Team was called out. Team members were preparing to enter the field to search for him when dispatch was notified that he had hiked out. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Vetter, DeGeorge, Luke Hammack, and Brad Schilz.


October 14-15, 2015. 15-694 #38 A backpacker from Southern California was reported overdue to the Virginia Lakes trailhead, and was last seen by the RP on the east side of Burro Pass about 4 PM. The next morning he was contacted at the trailhead and given a ride to Bridgeport. Responder: DeGeorge (Ops).


September 28, 2015. 15-641 #37 A Mammoth resident became lost while hiking from McCleod Lake to the Crest. Direction was given to the Crest trail via cell phone. No further SAR action was needed. Responder: Greene (Ops).


September 24, 2015. 15-632 #36 Two backpackers from South Carolina became separated while on a backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Whitney Portal. The RP, who hiked out to Reds Meadow, reported at 9 PM that he had last seen his partner north of Garnet Lake. She had no map. A cell phone ping located her on the north side of Garnet Lake at 1503. Early the next morning she called, reporting that she was okay and back on the trail to Reds to meet the RP. Responder: Greene (Ops).


September 24, 2015. 15-630 #35 A hiker on the River Trail was reported overdue. The RP had misunderstood the expected day and time of finishing the hike, and eleven minutes later the hiker arrived. Responder: Gilbreath (Ops), via phone only.


September 23, 2015. 15-629 #34 The Team responded to the Rush Creek trail in response to a cell phone call from a Louisiana woman who had injured her Achilles tendon when she slipped on a rock. She encountered a physician who recommended she get an X-ray, so decided to exit the back country at Silver Lake. The Team met the injured party below Agnew Lake. She refused assessment of the injury and use of crutches the Team brought. Team members carried her pack to the trailhead, where she declined the need for EMS services. She was given a ride to Mammoth, where she signed a release of liability, and sought care on her own. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Guffey, and Jon Hall.


September 4, 2015. 15-575 #33 A wife called from Mono Village reporting that her husband (Colorado resident) had not returned from a backpacking trip as planned Friday afternoon. She had dropped him at Saddlebag Lake on Tuesday. She had not received any PLB text messages as they previously planned so she thought that he may need rescuing. She was not in a cell phone coverage area so two SAR team members met her and brought her to MONO-1 for contact with the Ops leader. While driving, her phone received messages from his PLB. As he had not activated his PLB emergency button, the RP agreed that SAR was not needed. Saturday morning he contacted MONO-1. He had terminated his hike early due to the hike being more difficult and longer than anticipated, and was with his wife. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Caara Hunter, and Jeff Hunter.


August 28, 2015. 15-549 #32 On August 25 a hiker from San Diego was on the north east glacier of Banner Peak. Near the base of the glacier, he saw the tip of a leather boot toe protruding from under a large boulder. He believed the boot was possible evidence of human remains under the boulder. He reported the find to the Mono County Sheriff's Department on 08/27/15 when he exited the back country. He provided photos of the boot, the GPS coordinates of the location and a view up the fall line of the glacier upon making the report.

Due to the location of the find being in Madera County, the Madera SAR Coordinator was contacted, and requested the Mono County to conduct an initial assessment of the scene. The California Highway Patrol was contacted and provided helicopter H-40 to assist in the operation. The helicopter inserted a ground team of two SAR members on 08/28/15. The ground team hiked to the glacier and located the boot.

They determined the area was too unstable to attempt to excavate the snow away from or extract the boot on the down side of the car sized boulder. A further check of the area yielded discovery of another, matching boot (left) lying about 25 feet away on the glacier. The boot was an old leather high top boot with a delaminated rubber sole. It was roughly 11 inches long, with hobnails. It was very weathered with some of the leather and rubber sole missing due to animal activity or weather. The lace was present but not tied with some of the lace missing. It bore no trace of any human remains inside.

It appeared the boot had been at the location for a number of years. The ground team returned to the location of the pinned boot, and determined they could check the inside of that boot by cutting the toe of it to determine if any remains were inside. After performing the cut, the toe was opened, showing no remains. Nothing further/remarkable was found and the team cleared the area. Madera County was advised of the above findings. Responders were: Greene (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Bold, and Brodbeck.


August 27, 2015. 15-558 #31 A woman was belaying her husband who was rock climbing near Emerald Lake. During the climb, he pulled a boulder off the climbing route which fell, striking the victim. She sustained injuries to her foot, head and fingers. He called 911 and began to carry her out from the accident site down the trail on his back. The dispatch center sent Paramedics to the area and the Team began a response for a medical carry out. The paramedics were able to meet up with the couple on the trail. Following their patient assessment, the husband continued to carry his wife to the ambulance. Further response by SAR was then canceled. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops & IC), and Greene.


Megan Guffey getting ready to be flown in and lowered down
Megan Guffey getting ready to be flown in and lowered down

August 22, 2015. 15-541 #30 On Saturday, August 22, 2015, a backpacker from Moraga, California, was injured while hiking on the trail below the Garnet Lake outlet.

He was not able to weight his left leg or continue hiking.

One of the people he was hiking with walked to a point where cell phone reception was available and called 911 for help.

Four Team members were sent into the field hiking to the subject. CHP Helicopter H40 was requested, and responded, but was not able to land.

They picked up a SAR member at Minaret Vista who was lowered to the ground near the subject.

With the help of other hikers the subject was packaged and carried to a spot where H40 could hoist the subject and fly him to Minaret Vista, where a Mono County Paramedic ambulance transported him to Mammoth Hospital for treatment. Responders were: Corning (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Thompson, Dodson, Guffey, Brodbeck, Maxwell, and Beck.



August 19, 2015. S.O. Incident #1508190023, OES Mission #2015-LAW-15534, #29. A 58 year old woman near the outlet of Thousand Island Lake reported via DeLorme satellite communicator that she was feeling lethargic with a headache and nausea. Communication via text messaging through International Emergency Response an hour later indicated she was walking out to Agnew Meadows, and SAR assistance was not needed. Responder: Greene (Ops).


August 16, 2015. 15-532 #28 While on a pack trip on the Pacific Crest Trail near Lake Harriet with a group of 4 hikers and pack animals, a 52 year old female member of the group fell into a creek bed, sustaining a lower leg injury. She was unable to continue the hike out of the back country. A SPOT emergency locator beacon was activated to summon help.

The Mono County Sheriff's Department was then contacted by California Office of Emergency Services to handle the call. Due to the remote location, the SAR Team was put on standby and a helicopter was requested from the California Highway Patrol. Helicopter H20 from Auburn then responded to the area. The crew was able to land near the injured subject, assessed her injuries, and flew her to Mammoth Airport for Paramedic transfer to Mammoth Hospital for further treatment. Responders were: DeGeorge (ops/ic), Beck and Hartstrom were standing by, but were not needed.


Bill Greene ready to fly in and be hoisted down
Bill Greene ready to fly in and be hoisted down

August 16, 2015. 15-528 #27 On Sunday afternoon, the SAR Team responded to a report of a climber fall near Patricia Lake above Rock Creek Lake. While on the crux of the climb, the subject fell off the route.

The protective anchor he had placed in the rock failed when loaded, resulting in an unprotected fall of 50 feet, and a subsequent tumble of 40 feet.

He was not wearing a helmet, and was found to be unresponsive with multiple injuries due to the fall.

California Highway Patrol helicopter H40 was fortunately in the area, but was unable to land nearby due to high winds and terrain. The helicopter landed at the helispot near Tom's Place, and a SAR team member was flown to the victim's location and inserted by hoist.

With the aid of others at the scene, the subject was stabilized on a backboard with other medical equipment and hoisted into the helicopter.

He was transported to Mammoth Airport where Mono County Paramedics assisted SAR members and CHP aircrew in packaging the subject for direct transport by the CHP helicopter to Fresno Medical Center. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops), Greene, Drake, Gilbreath, Robertson, Dodson, Ackerman, Webb, Maroti, and Brodbeck.


Subject unloaded from helicopter
Subject unloaded from helicopter
Subject being prepared for flight to hospital
Subject being prepared for flight to hospital


August 12-13, 2015. 15-521 #26 At 7 PM on Wednesday, during the monthly Team meeting, the SAR team responded to the report of an overdue hiker. A 45 year old woman from Mammoth had not returned from a hike as expected in the Convict Lake Area. The team dispatched two hasty teams, one of which spent the night in the field, tracking, and interviewing backpackers at their camps.

The next morning additional teams were sent into the field in addition to CHP Helicopter H40 from Fresno assisting in the search. The hiker eventually walked out on her own Thursday morning, after encountering hikers at Ram Lake who helped keep her warm and nourished during the night.

In the morning, she enlisted assistance from a horse pack group to call her husband and report that she was okay and walking out to Coldwater campground. After becoming disoriented and losing her way, she hiked over 20 miles, much of it cross country, climbing over 6300 feet, crossing a high ridge above Franklin Lake, and finishing 1500 feet higher than she started 30 hours earlier. Responders were: Vetter (Ops), Corning, DeGeorge, Gilbreath, Barnum, Cucura, Case, Jon Hall, Guffey, Thompson, Beck, Carole Schilz, Brad Schilz, Holt, and Greene.

Ops15_521 - Estimated route in blue taken by subject
Ops15_521 - Estimated route in blue taken by subject
Ops15_521 - Profile of estimated route taken by subject
Ops15_521 - Profile of estimated route taken by subject

August 10, 2015. 15-513 #25 The subject was on a back pack trip with a Boy Scout group starting from Silver Lake into the back country. When the group got to Horse Tail Falls above Silver Lake, the subject began feeling weak and trailed behind the group. The other pack leaders found the victim suffering from chest pains and radiating pain consistent with a heart attack. The RP then called 911.

The SAR Team was dispatched to the area along with June Lake Fire, Mono County Paramedics and a helicopter from Careflight. During the response, members of the scout group were able to obtain help from personnel from the Southern California Edison power plant, who have a tramway to Agnew Lake. They were able to use the tram to transport the victim to waiting paramedics who transferred him to a Careflight helicopter at the June Mountain Ski Area parking lot. The helicopter flew him to renown Medical Center in Reno for further treatment. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops), Beck, Luke Hammack, Tajia Hammack, Drake, Barnum, Endo, Greene and Cucura.


August 8, 2015. #24 Ops Leader heard radio traffic that SO/MLPD were looking for a lost person off Scenic Loop. Went to lat/lon from 911 call and picked him up. Transferred to Deputy, who took him to his campsite. No case number. Responder: Greene (Ops).


August 8, 2015. #23 Dispatch called Saturday about 1800. Worked up op for separated/over-due party. During work-up RP established contact with missing party - waited with RP till party hiked out about 2200. No case number. Responder: Greene (Ops).


August 3, 2015. 15-493 #22 While backpacking with her family in the Saddlebag Lake area, 52 year-old female from Ventura began experiencing severe high altitude sickness symptoms. Family members hiked out and called 911 when they obtained cell phone coverage. The Team responded to their camp site at Shamrock Lake, and were able to carry her out using a wheeled litter. She was evaluated by Mono County Paramedics and taken to Mammoth Hospital for treatment. Responders were: Greene (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Dodson, Luke Hammack, Beck, Jeff Hunter, Barnum, and Endo.

Preparing victim to be evacuated via wheeled litter
Preparing victim to be evacuated via wheeled litter
Evacuating victim via wheeled litter
Evacuating victim via wheeled litter

Evacuating victim via wheeled litter
Evacuating victim via wheeled litter

Evacuating victim via wheeled litter
Evacuating victim via wheeled litter
Transporting victim via ferry boat across Saddlebag Lake
Transporting victim via ferry boat across Saddlebag Lake


August 2, 2015. 15-492 #21 At about 2:30 PM, two people near Roosevelt Lake were reported in need of evacuation. The case involved a 63 year old male with an ankle injury that occurred the previous day, plus one additional person who was having some sort of stomach distress and was also unable to walk out. The two subjects spoke with a hiking party that morning, asking them to request assistance when they reached the trailhead.

They spoke with both the campground host at the Leavitt meadows campground (who called dispatch), and with personnel at the pack station, which sent three riders up the trail looking for the subjects at about 1 PM, based on the report from the hikers. The Team responded to Leavitt Meadows, but the evacuation was already under way by pack animal from the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station. Mono County paramedics responded, and took charge of the subjects. Responders were: Hartstrom (Ops), Barnum, Haugh, Cucura, and Jon Hall.


Ops 15-474 - CHP Helicopter extracting victim
Ops 15-474 - CHP Helicopter extracting victim

July 27, 2015. 15-474 #20 On Monday, July 27, 2015, a hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail at Lake Harriet, approximately 18 miles east of Bridgeport, called for help using a satellite phone. She had sustained an ankle injury and was unable to hike out. Due to the extreme distance from the nearest trailhead, the Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team requested the assistance of a California Highway Patrol helicopter to extract the hiker from the backcountry.

Due to steep terrain it was unable to land near the hiker so the helicopter flew to Bridgeport to pick up additional fuel and also requested a Team rescue member to be available for insertion. The Team member was taken by helicopter to the hiker's location and lowered by the helicopter's cable hoist to the ground near the injured hiker. The hiker was hoisted up to the helicopter and taken to Bridgeport for evaluation by Mono County Paramedics. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Hartstrom, and Beck.


July 26, 2015. 15-468 #19 The Team was called to respond to the June Lake area for an injured man. Our response was cancelled shortly after as the situation was handled by other agencies on scene. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Taj Hammack, and Luke Hammack.


July 25 & 26, 2015. 15-466 #18 On Saturday night about 10:30 PM, the Team was called to aid two hikers from Petaluma who had summited Mt. Conness, but then could not find the descent route. They called from a ridge southeast of the summit, approximately on the Park boundary, at 12,300 feet. They were advised to stay where they were and shelter as well as possible until rescuers could reach them.

They attempted to find their way down, and last contact was at 2:30 AM north of Alpine Lake. SAR members hiked in from Saddlebag Lake, and within a few hours were able to find the pair about a mile west of the Carnegie research station. They were escorted out to Saddlebag Lake. Their car was at the Lundy Canyon trailhead, but their camp was at Steelhead Lake. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Beck, Luke Hammack, and Cucura.


July 25, 2015. 15-462 #17 Three separate SPOT emergency messages were sent from the Saddlebag Lake area. One from the resort boat dock, one from the north dock, and one from the trail north. The source was a 13 member Boy Scout backpack party headed to McCabe Lake and then on into Yosemite. Ops leader work-up only. Responder was: Greene (Ops).


July 24, 2015. S.O. incident 1507240028 #16 A cross country running team reported one of their runners overdue or lost east of Smokey Bear Flat. He was located while the Team Operations Leader was enroute. Responder was: Greene (Ops).


July 22, 2015. 15-451 #15 About midnight, a 66 year old diabetic man was reported missing from camp between Garnet and Shadow lakes. He had left camp to get water from Shadow Creek, and did not return. The RP was the wife (at home) of one of the hikers. She had received a text message from the missing subject's hiking partner who asked her to call Mono County Sheriff to request SAR.

The ops leader spent most of the night working up helo support with calls to CHP/OES/AFRCC/Fallon/Mather. Just as the Team was about to be called out, he got text message contact with the RP in the backcountry. 5 minutes later, the missing subject walked back into camp - okay but cold and hungry. A Mather Air Guard Blackhawk helicopter was just getting ready to launch when cancelled. Responder was: Greene (Ops).


July 20, 2015. 15-443 #14 On the afternoon of Monday, July 20, 2015, at approximately 12:30 pm, Mono County Sheriff's Dispatch received a call regarding an unresponsive male climber in the Clark Canyon area. The subject, age 37, of Mammoth Lakes, was rock climbing in a popular area known as Area 13 in Clark Canyon where he fell approximately 60 feet from the rock face. Mono County Paramedics, June Lake Fire Department, Mono County Sheriff's Search and Rescue (SAR) Team, and Mono County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the area. Life saving measures were conducted but were unsuccessful and the subject was pronounced deceased at the scene. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Soucy, Scotese, Brad Schilz, Taj Hammack, Luke Hammack, Beck, and Endo.


July 13, 2015. 15-418 #13 On the evening of Monday, July 13, 2015, at approximately 8:40 PM, the Mono County Sheriff's Office received a call regarding an overdue day hiker near the Sherwin Creek campground. A male day hiker, age 44, from Orange, California, set out on a day hike around 2:30 PM. The hiker wasn't expected to be out for long, and when he didn't return when he said he would, the family became concerned.

The Team was dispatched to help in the search for the overdue day hiker near the Sherwin Creek campground. After securing the campsite for tracks, two SAR teams started searching nearby dirt roads and spoke with nearby campers to see if anyone had seen the overdue hiker. The hiker had walked to a familiar place but had found himself turned around when he tried to return to his campsite. Realizing he was lost, he tried to hail some motorists and knocked on an RV's door but no one would help.

Eventually he walked towards a light which put him at the closed-up YWCA Camp. The caretaker of the camp had previously spoken with one of the SAR teams, so when she found the overdue hiker, she gave him food and water, as he was very dehydrated and shivering, and called 911. The SAR team returned to the YWCA Camp and safely returned the overdue hiker to his family. Responders were: Vetter & Corning, (Ops), Drake, Wenzlau, Brodbeck, Ackerman & K-9 Takoda, and Case.


July 13, 2015. 15-417 #12 At 3 PM, the Team was called out for a female hiker with an injured ankle near Gem Lake and Rush Creek. Teams hiked in while base attempted to reestablish cell phone contact to determine the exact location and extent of injuries. Team reached the dam at Waugh Lake, interviewing persons along the way, but were unable to locate the subject. All teams were instructed to return to base. On the following day contact with YOSAR determined that subject was seen hiking out to Tuolumne Meadows and did not require assistance from Mono SAR. Responders were: Greene (Ops), Endo, Luke Hammack, Dodson, Thompson, Guffey, Jon Hall, Hartstrom, Drake, Webb, and Wenzlau.


July 1, 2015. no number #11 A half hour was spent on the phone guiding a lost person down from Deer Mountain back to the Inyo Craters trailhead. Responder was: Greene (Ops).


June 7, 2015. 15-334 #10 The Team was called out to assist with recovery of the remains of a visitor from Fresno, who was killed in a single vehicle rollover from the Laurel Creek road above Laurel Lakes. At approximately 6 P.M., the accident was witnessed from the slope above the road. The road at this location is steep, narrow, and has multiple sharp turns. The vehicle left the road and rolled down the steep slope, where it overturned several times, ejecting the driver and two dogs. One dog survived. Responders were: Greene (Ops), DeGeorge, Dodson, Robertson, Webb, Tonseth, Drake, Maroti, Hartstrom, Jon Hall, Endo, Viren Perumal, and Holt.


June 6, 2015. 15-000 #9 The Team was asked to shadow participants in the 24 hour Adventure Race from Mammoth Mountain to Bishop City Park, and be ready to assist if needed. A missing bike team was located, and a water rescue done of a kayak team at night on Crowley Lake with a Mono County Sheriff Boat Patrol officer. Responders were: Vetter (Ops).


June 2, 2015. 15-323 #8 The Team was called out to aid Mono County Sheriff deputies in an evidence search on a steep hillside near Monitor Pass on S.R. 89. A single car rollover accident resulted in a fatality for the driver, and scattered vehicle parts and contents along the path of the car. Responders were: Ackerman and K-9 Takoda, Ron Hall, Jon Hall, Jeff Hunter, Greene, and DeGeorge.


May 31, 2015. 15-316 #7 On Sunday May 31, the Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue (SAR) Team was called out at 11:16 AM to rescue a backpacker from the Bay Area who was injured following a fall near Fern Lake in Madera County, about 5 miles southwest of Devil's Postpile. His right knee was painful and he was unable to put weight on it. Seventeen SAR Team members staged at Minaret Vista, and ground teams hiked to Fern Lake with a litter and equipment. The first 9 responders put in 10 miles round trip in difficult terrain, with downed trees blocking the trail, and including a nighttime stream crossing. Following an EMT patient assessment it was determined the patient would not be able to walk, and was evacuated by litter, arriving at Devil's Postpile at 11 PM. He signed a medical waiver to seek his own medical treatment. New Candidate Members were in the field for the first time on this long and difficult evacuation. Responders were: DeGeorge (IC & Ops), Corning (Ops), Dodson, Robertson, Tonseth, Buccowich, Brodbeck, Case, Greene, Barnum, Cowan, Vetter, Holt, Drake, Endo, Gilbreath, and Beck.

Daylight stream crossing
Daylight stream crossing
Daylight creek crossing
Daylight creek crossing

Moving wheeled liter up the trail in the dark
Moving wheeled liter up the trail in the dark

Trees across the trail
Trees across the trail
Night stream crossing
Night stream crossing

Re-grouping after crossing creek in the dark
Re-grouping after crossing creek in the dark
Crossing the creek in the dark
Crossing the creek in the dark

Fern Lake Rescue Route Map
Fern Lake Resue Route Profile

May 11-12, 2015. 15-282 #6 The Team was called out at 2130 to aid a hiker who was injured during a climb of Pyramid Peak in the Sherwin Range. About 4 PM, as he was descending a rocky area, his right foot slipped on the snow between two boulders, and the fall pinned his leg between the boulders. He was unable to extricate his leg for four hours. During this time he lost his jacket in high winds and his headlamp fell down a crack and was lost. As darkness fell, he was able to free his leg and called 911 due to being wet, cold and having no light source. Twelve Team members staged at the Mammoth Lakes SAR Facility and dispatched two field teams. They were able to access the area and hike to the subject's location. Following an EMT patient assessment it was determined he would be able to hike slowly down the mountainside with aid from the rescuers. Upon reaching the trailhead, an additional patient assessment was conducted. The subject signed a medical care release form, and was transported to his vehicle to seek his own treatment. Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops), Dodson, L. Hammack, Robertson, Greene, Guffey, Drake, Wenzlau, Brodbeck, T. Hammack, Hartstrom, and Corning.


Rescued backpacker and SAR member Rick Dodson

April 8, 2015. 15-203 #5 At approximately 10:00AM, the Sheriff's Office received a call regarding a stranded backpacker near Glass Creek. A male backpacker, age 43, from Ramona, CA, began a two week backpack trip. The backpacker started his trip at Dead Man Creek and was hiking to Yost Lake. On day four of the trip, while near Glass Creek, the backpacker twisted his ankle and camped at his location to recover. During this time, a storm moved into the Eastern Sierra and the area received 18" to 2 1/2 feet of fresh new snow over the dry landscape. The backpacker was unsuccessful in keeping his equipment dry. He became wet and cold with numb feet.

On Wednesday, April 8th, he called 911 via his cellphone and requested rescue/extrication. The Team was dispatched to rescue the stranded backpacker. SAR team members staged at June Mountain Ski Area. The ground teams accessed Glass Creek through the ski area and the trailhead at Hartley Springs. The teams were able to locate the stranded backpacker, conduct an EMT patient assessment, and assist in re-warming the backpacker's extremities. The backpacker was given snow shoes, and with the teams' assistance, was able to hike back to the trailhead. Once back at the rescue base, the backpacker signed a medical release to seek his own further medical treatment. He was given a ride to his family members in the Mammoth Lakes area. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Vetter, DeGeorge, Beck, Robertson, Caara Hunter, Jeff Hunter, Hartstrom, Soucy, Hammack, Cowan, Scotese, Dodson, and Webb.

Preparing to rescue stranded backpacker
Snowmobiles were utiliized to rescue stranded backpacker


Ops 15-174 location - Barry Beck Photo
Ops 15-174 location - Barry Beck Photo

CH-47 Chinook Helicopter extracting subject - Barry Beck Photo
CH-47 Chinook Helicopter extracting subject - Barry Beck Photo

March 21, 2015. 15-174 #4 On Saturday, March 21, 2015, the Mineral County (Nevada) Sheriff dispatch center received a 911 call from a climber, age 33 of Reno Nevada, who reported that he had broken his leg in a fall. He reported his location as being near Matterhorn Peak, which is approximately 15 miles southwest of Bridgeport, California in the Sawtooth mountain range.

His 911 call was transferred to the Mono County Sheriff's office dispatch center in Bridgeport California, but the call was terminated due to poor cell phone reception. Attempts to re-establish contact were unsuccessful, so his exact whereabouts were unknown. Mono County Sheriff deputies located his vehicle at Mono Village, Twin Lakes, the trailhead used for access to the Matterhorn Peak area.

The Mono County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team responded along with a helicopter from the California Highway Patrol based in Auburn, California. Due to high winds the CHP helicopter had limited capability for searching the peaks and valleys near the 12,000 foot peak, so a larger helicopter was requested.

Just prior to dark a rescue helicopter from Fallon Naval Air Station reached the search area and was able to spot the subject at approximately the 10,000 foot level on a steep slope just below the crest of a ridgeline known as The Cleaver two miles north of Matterhorn Peak. The Navy helicopter tried numerous times to lower a medic, but were unsuccessful due to high winds, the steep slope angle, and darkness.

That evening Mono County SAR personnel began hiking in to the subject's location. A larger helicopter and assistance from the Inyo County SAR team was requested for Sunday morning.

While SAR personnel were climbing to the location a California National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter from Stockton, California, was able to lower a crewman to the subject, and he was hoisted up to the helicopter. He was flown to Bryant Field in Bridgeport, and transferred to Mono County Paramedics. Medics transferred him to a CareFlight helicopter for transport to Renown Medical Center in Reno, Nevada.

The CH-47-F helicopter was one of ten delivered to the National Guard in December, and this rescue was the first one for this model. New equipment on this model was a critical component in the helicopter being able to rescue the climber from his high altitude, windy, steep slope location.

The helicopter pilot was able to use the new 'hover hold' feature to maintain a precise position while very near the cliff face during the extraction operation.

Other agencies providing valuable assistance in obtaining and coordinating military resources used in this rescue were the California Office of Emergency Services and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Langley Virginia.

Responders were: Greene (Ops), Minder (IC), DeGeorge (Ops & IC), Beck, Hammack, Dodson, Cucura, Barnum, Jeff Hunter, Caara Hunter, Robertson, and Thompson.

The victim of this accident writes this story about his experience.


Discussing situation with Navy Flight Crew that located subject
Discussing situation with Navy Flight Crew that located subject
Chinook Helicopter on the scene
Chinook Helicopter on the scene

Setting up GPS for possible walk-in to subject
Setting up GPS for possible walk-in to subject

Setting up GPS for possible walk-in to subject
Setting up GPS for possible walk-in to subject
Potential extraction route
Potential extraction route

Team hiking in after dark
Team hiking in after dark
Bivouacking for the night
Bivouacking for the night

Reported in Accidents in North American Climbing 1916, American Alpine Club

FALL ON ROCK AND SNOW | Inexperience, Off Route

Sawtooth Range, Cleaver Peak

On March 21 the Mineral County Sheriff (Nevada) received a 911 call from Brandon Reiff (33) of Reno, who reported that he had broken his leg in a fall near Matterhorn Peak (12,280 feet). His 911 call was transferred to the Mono County Sheriff, but the call was dropped due to poor reception. Attempts to re-establish contact were unsuccessful, so his exact whereabouts were unknown.

Mono County SAR responded, along with a helicopter from the California High- way Patrol. Due to high winds, the helicopter had limited capability for searching near the 12,000-foot peak, so a larger helicopter was requested. Just prior to dark, the subject was spotted at approximately 10,000 feet on a steep slope below the crest of ridgeline forming Cleaver Peak (11,760'), two miles north of Matterhorn Peak. The helicopter tried numerous times to lower a medic but was unsuccessful due to high winds, the steep slope, and darkness.

That evening Mono County SAR personnel began hiking to the subject's lo- cation. A larger helicopter and assistance from the Inyo County SAR team were requested for the morning of March 22. While SAR personnel climbed to the victim's location, a Chinook helicopter was able to lower a crewman. The climber was hoisted up to the helicopter, then flown to Bryant Field in Bridgeport. (Source: Mono County SAR.)

ANALYSIS

In late winter or early spring, any route on Matterhorn Peak or Cleaver Peak is a mountaineering objective, involving a considerable amount of steep snow climbing and exposed, steep, and possibly snow-covered rock. Although this climber's equipment included mountaineering boots, crampons, a climbing helmet, and an appropriate clothing system for winter mountaineering-but no ice axe-he did not have technical mountaineering skills or experience.

According to the climber, he made the decision to attempt Matterhorn Peak late the night before and did not leave the trailhead until after 8:30 a.m. He was unable to locate the trail toward the peak; instead, he chose to scramble and bush- whack up a streambed toward the mountain. After realizing he had underestimated the approach to Matterhorn Peak, he decided to attempt Cleaver Peak instead, without foreknowledge of any route. He climbed the snow slope up to the ridgeline forming Cleaver Peak with crampons. Once reaching the steep rock walls on Cleaver's northeast side, he continued upward but soon realized the terrain necessitated rock climbing equipment, and so he began downclimbing.

While negotiating a steep section, the climber decided to let go and drop a short distance to a ledge below. Upon impact with the ledge, the climber broke his leg and went into a free fall down rock cliffs and snow slopes, eventually coming to a stop on a snowbank. He placed a call to 911 and attempted to splint his leg. The climber noted he'd also dislocated his left shoulder and broken multiple ribs; he also had pain and swelling on the back of his head and neck. Due to his injuries and the difficulty of rescue, the climber spent a full night out in single-digit temperatures and was lucky to survive without additional cold injuries.

What can novice mountaineers take away from this?

Plan ahead. Knowledge of the route and general area is important to success and survival.

Leave early. Most individuals attempting high peaks in winter, or under winter conditions, depart in the predawn hours.

Have the right equipment. In this terrain the climber should have been using an ice axe in conjunction with his crampons. With a rope and rock climbing protection-and the knowledge to use it-the climber could have built anchors and facilitated a safer descent. (Source: The Editors, with information from a blog post by the climber.)


March 14, 2015. 15-161 #3 At 0830 the Team was called out to conduct search operations in the Owens Gorge for a missing climber in conjunction with Inyo County SAR. Spontaneous search efforts by the subject's friends and family had been underway for several hours prior to authorities being notified. Prior to our arrival, a friend of the subject located his deceased body at the bottom of a climbing route in the Sub Gorge below the paved access point. Twelve Mono SAR members staged on the lower gorge access road, joining the lnyo SAR team already on scene. Though the location was in Mono County, it was determined that the best course of action would be a combined effort. Due to steep terrain and to minimize rock fall hazards, the victim was brought upstream about a quarter mile via hand carried litter, traveling in and out of the river in the bottom of the gorge to more moderate terrain where a rope aided haul could complete the extrication. 600 feet of rope was rigged with a 4 to 1 mechanical advantage, anchored to SAR trucks on the road. Responders were: Greene (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Case, Corning, Carole Schilz, Brad Schilz, Hammack, Dodson, French, Endo, Gilbreath, Ackerman, Soucy, and 8 members of Inyo SAR.

Reported in Accidents in North American Climbing 1916, American Alpine Club

FALL ON ROCK, BOLT FAILURE | Climbing Alone

Owens River Gorge, Silent Pillar Wall

Scott Sederstrom (44) fell to his death on March 13 when a bolt failed on Life in Electric Larvae Land (5.10b) at Silent Pillar Wall in the Owens River Gorge. When Sederstrom did not return from climbing that evening, his fiancée drove to the Lower Gorge parking lot, where she found his van and dog. Inyo County Search and Rescue began an organized search in the morning. About an hour into the search, a family friend of Sederstrom's found his body at the base of the climb. Sederstrom was on the ground, with a stick clip attached to his harness and an eight- foot loop of slack between the tie-in point on his harness and the Grigri attached to his belay loop. A quickdraw was on the rope within the loop, with a bolt hanger (missing its bolt) clipped to the other end of the quickdraw. The evidence suggests that Sederstrom was using the stick clip to go bolt to bolt-unclipping the bolt below as he went and using the Grigri to ascend the short loop of rope to the bolt above him-when the third bolt on the climb failed. A Mini Traxion device was found in his pack, suggesting he was planning to set up a fixed line for top-rope soloing. Sederstrom fell 25 to 30 feet to the ground, suffering trauma to his head. He was not wearing a helmet. (Sources: Rock and Ice, Dan McDevitt, Marty Lewis, and Greg Barnes.)

ANALYSIS

The bolt in question was a 5/16-inch buttonhead (a pound-in compression bolt). The buttonhead bolt snapped approximately half an inch into its hole. Inspection of the bolt revealed corrosion below the surface and that the bolt may have been fractured prior to the accident. While most modern expansion and glue-in bolts are strong and reliable (when placed correctly in good rock), climbers should be suspicious of any older-style bolts, which are often not drilled deeply. Age greatly affects the integrity of most bolts; this one was likely placed on the first ascent in 1992. The climber could have prevented this accident by implementing some form of redundancy or a true self-belay (utilizing an anchor near the ground) into his rope-solo system. Instead, he put his faith in single points of protection, well off the ground. It's impossible to say if a helmet would have saved Sederstrom after falling from such a height. (Source: The Editors.)


February 5, 2015. 15-081 #2 The Team was called out for a report of a hiker stranded on or near Iron Mountain. A 22 year old male from Idaho flew to Mammoth intending to hike to Iron Mountain. He walked from Main Lodge to Devils Postpile, and camped there two nights. The next morning (Feb 5), he started toward Iron Mountain, but soon lost the trail. He was concerned about a storm coming, and low food, so called his father, who initiated an emergency call. The Madera County Sheriff handled the requests for air support. CHP H40 responded, but was unable to safely operate in the high winds. The Team sent two snowmobiles down for ground support in the event helicopter aid was not available or successful. Late in the afternoon a big twin rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the National Guard at Sacramento located the subject, and hoisted him up on a jungle penetrator. He was taken to Mammoth airport, where he was met by a Team member and taken to his hotel. Responders were: Corning (Ops), Vetter (Ops), DeGeorge (IC), Hammack, Guffey, Soucy, Hartstrom, Gilbreath, Robertson, and Dan Tonseth.


Ops 15-056 Crooked Creek

January 25-26, 2015. 15-056 #1 On the evening of Sunday, January 25, 2015, at approximately 10:00pm, the Mono County Sheriff's Office received a call regarding a hiker with an ankle injury in the White Mountains.

A male hiker, age 19, from Dyer, NV, was hiking in the backcountry of the White Mountains when he injured his ankle jumping off some rocks along the trail, during a camping trip to Crooked Creek.

Upon attempting to walk, he was unable to put weight on his ankle and requested assistance to exit the backcountry in the morning.

On the morning of Monday, January 26, 2015, at 6:00 am, the Team responded to the Crooked Creek area with two rescue trucks and the Polaris Ranger.

The Team was able to locate the injured hiker. He was evaluated by an EMT and safely transported out of the backcountry Responders were: DeGeorge (Ops), Corning, Guffey, Holmquist, Cucura, and Hammack.

Ops 15-056 Crooked Creek
Ops 15-056 Crooked Creek
Ops 15-056 Crooked Creek
Ops 15-056 Crooked Creek


Older Operations will be found in the yearly Highlights pages.