On January 27, 2014 around 20:00, a small group of 3 Inyo SAR team members and the SAR Coordinator assembled at the Posse Hut to assist the subject down from White Mountain Road.
The subject had been biking from Badwater Basin (-282 ft) in an attempt to reach the summit of White Mountain (14,252 ft) over a period of 7 days. At approximately 11,000 ft elevation, the subject’s water hose disconnected from his water bladder, emptying about half of the water before he could reconnect it. The subject knew that he would run out of water before his previously stashed emergency cache at 12,000 ft, but he had over 6 gallons of fluid at the cache. The subject came over a ridge and saw how much snow was on the road, and realized he was in trouble. The subject called his friend in Bishop on his satellite phone to let him know what was going on. The subject was still a mile away from his cache at this point. Upon arriving at his emergency cache, the subject found that all the water was frozen solid. The subject went into his bag to get his burner to melt the frozen liquid, and realized that he had made a crucial mistake—he had left his burner at his base camp around 10,000 ft, which was 18 miles behind him. The subject called his friend again and activated his SPOT device, giving his GPS coordinates. The subject spoke with the SAR Coordinator on the satellite phone and activated his SPOT device again.
Since the coordinates were on White Mountain Road, and snow conditions have been minimal in the White Mountains, an ambulance was dispatched to retrieve the subject. The ambulance attempted to access White Mountain Road via Highway 168, but turned around due to heavy snow conditions on the road. SAR team members took over from this point on.
Based on the SPOT coordinates, the team headed up Silver Canyon Road until they reached a locked gate. The three team members decided to leave the vehicle at the gate and start hiking up, in the event that the gate could not be unlocked. The SAR Coordinator contacted Forest Service personnel in an attempt to locate a key that would open the gate and expedite the rescue. None of the keys fit the lock, so the lock was broken, and the SAR Coordinator drove up the road, picking up the team members (who had made it quite far!), and continuing to the second set of coordinates from the subject’s second SPOT activation.
The subject was found lying down on the side of the road next to his bicycle, responsive to verbal commands, but unable to move much. Subject was dry heaving, and not shivering upon our arrival. Subject was oriented only to his person (could not tell us place, time or event), and was very cold. Subject was given oxygen via nasal cannula, and moved into the SAR vehicle. After being given oxygen, the subject could tell us where he was, what he was doing, and what month it was. He later stated that he had been so cold he felt “warm and fuzzy” before blacking out. The subject was driven back down Silver Canyon to rendezvous with the ambulance at approximately midnight.
The subject was probably very dehydrated, hypothermic, and suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness. He recognized he was in trouble, and used his satellite phone to call for help. This is a great reminder to have a plan for the worst possible scenario anytime you go into the mountains. This subject’s emergency plan (and the team members who responded) most definitely saved his life.