On the evening of Wednesday, May 30, 2018 the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a hiker near Trail Crest on the Mount Whitney Trail who was flashing an SOS signal with his headlamp. The reporting party could not provide a description of the subject or any information regarding their condition. The reporting party was encouraged to make contact with the patient if possible and assist him or provide us with more detail. With limited information, a helicopter and ground team were scheduled to deploy as early as possible the next morning to investigate.
On Thursday, May 31, due to high winds, CHP helicopter H82 was unable to land near the patient’s last known location below Trail Crest, but deployed four Inyo SAR team members at Outpost Camp. The team hiked up to Trail Camp, receiving conflicting reports along the way that the patient had a broken limb, was uninjured, or was hypothermic. The team located the patient, a 24-year-old male, at Trail Camp.
The subject said he was descending the snowfield below Trail Crest known as “the chute” when another glissading hiker collided with him, causing both of them to tumble a short distance down the chute. Shockingly, after crashing into the subject the other hiker continued his descent without assessing or assisting the subject in any way. The subject sustained minor abrasions to his chest, forearm, and shin but was largely uninjured. The subject felt uncomfortable continuing to descend the icy snowfield, and made the decision to stay where he was and signal for help.
The subject was wearing minimal clothing and light, non-waterproof shoes. Two Good Samaritans camped at Trail Camp saw his SOS signal, called the Sheriff’s Office, and hiked up to bring him a sleeping bag. By the time the Good Samaritans contacted him, his clothing was covered in ice and he was hypothermic. They cared for him through the night and helped him descend to Trail Camp in the morning.
When Inyo SAR contacted the subject, he was warm, ambulatory, and mentally alert and oriented. He had adequate food and water and had no injuries other than the abrasions. The subject declined further medical care and indicated that he was comfortable walking down the remainder of the trail without assistance from SAR. The SAR team supplied him with extra food and water, confirmed that he did not require additional help, and departed the scene after thanking the Good Samaritans for their courage and kindness in setting aside their own plans to help a fellow hiker.