Saturday evening at 7:37 pm we had a call for a skier with a possible broken leg near the entrance to the North Couloir on the Incredible Hulk. A party of 3 had hiked in from Mono Village, waded across Robinson Creek (which as expected for spring time was running fast and cold), and continued up Little Slide Canyon. About 30 minutes after crossing the creek, they hit the snowline, and put on their skis and skins and continued up the canyon.
As the terrain became steeper below the entrance to the couloir, they removed their skis and bootpacked up the couloir. On the descent, one of the skiers fell from about 3/4 height, and tumbled and slid down the couloir, and when the fall ended, he found he had multiple left leg fractures, but most notably an open tib-fib with considerable bone exposed. The accident occurred at approximately 5 pm.
One of the group activated a PLB, and they waited for a helo to collect them (it was later learned that no PLB activation was recorded). The helo did not arrive, and one of their party hiked out to Mono Village and reported the accident to the SO. The Team was activated, and 3 large field teams were sent out. The weather was cold, and as the field teams were gathering gear, it began to snow. All teams departed well after dark; it is about 3 miles in on the trail, and just past the wilderness boundary, the field teams left the trail and found the downed tree crossing.
There is a use trail on the south side of the creek that leads into Little Slide Canyon, and all field teams used this and the downed tree bridge instead of wading the creek. At base the decision had been made to send the field teams with snowshoes as few folks had skis, skins, and ski crampons. Little Slide Canyon was covered in deep snow, and is quite steep in places, and the Team's technical snowshoes were well suited to the terrain.
The field teams arrived at the subject's location at approximately 12:42 am and found him to be in tremendous pain, and his injury grievous, with considerable blood loss. He was packaged in a SKED litter, and a long series of lowerings commenced at 1:35 am.
The SKED litter was lowered approximately 800’ via anchored belays, and then carried/dragged over the snow to the snowline.
The wheel and titanium litter had been left at snowline; there was moderate snowfall all night, over 6" in all, and the uptrack was obliterated, making it difficult to retrace the route, and to find the litter and wheel. Eventually they were located, and the entire package of SKED litter and subject were loaded into the wheeled litter. The descent had many snow-covered sidehills, and these were very difficult to cross with the wheeled litter. In addition, there were sections of thick brush, willows, boulder fields, and dense trees.
The use trail was regained, and it was entirely different than it was on the ascent, due to the continuous overnight snowfall. There were very narrow, precipitous sections, and many smooth granite slabs now covered in fresh snowfall. Air resources were requested, but the weather was still a limiting factor. CHP H40 stated that they could not cross the Sierra, and Fallon was not sure what they could do.
Multiple belays were built to safeguard the Team and the subject as they continued the sketchy descent. The belay teams were leap-frogging to keep the litter moving, while preventing falls into the abyss. After many, many belayed sections down the marginal use trail, the field teams arrived on the valley floor.
It was not feasible to cross the downed trees with the litter, so the litter team hopped in the freezing cold 2-foot deep creek (after spending the entire night out in the cold and snow), and waded the litter to the other bank. From there it was 3 miles on the snow-covered trail back to the trailhead, and urgency was indicated as the steady blood loss continued unabated.
The subject was handed off to Mono County Medics, and was then flown out on Care Flight. The subject’s ski partner indicated that after surgery, it is likely that the subject will not lose his leg; that is amazing considering the severity of the injury, and the time it took to get him out due to extremely difficult conditions.
The Team displayed extraordinary team work, competence, and professionalism in successfully effecting this extraction and rescue. At one point there were 18 personnel out in the field, and 16 of those were out for the entire duration from 7:37 pm on Saturday night until 9:14 am Sunday morning, a tremendous effort. The Team continues to perform outstanding work.
IC Pelichowsky, Ops Leader Beck/Wallace. Responders: Patterson, Torrence, Hansen T, Zila, Buchanan, Bush, Creager, Hammack L, Hartstrom, Pavlovsky, Quiring, Anderson, Montgomery, Mosher, Mulligan, Evans, Senior, Padilla