In the early hours on Wednesday, September 2 Dispatch received a report of a climber who took a reported 40 foot tumbling fall off of the first pitch on a climb on the Surgicle Arete located on the western side of Temple Crag in the Palisades range. The fall occurred one day prior at approximately 1500 in the afternoon. The subject was a 27 year old male who was complaining of right ankle pain and lower back tenderness.
Inquiry in to availability of a CHP helicopter was made first thing Wednesday morning around 0500. H82 was assigned to the SAR and performed recon flights to try to locate the patient a couple of hours later. The injured pt and the two other members of the party were spotted near the western side of Temple crag just a few hundred feet from the base of the buttress. H82 touched down in Bishop around 0900 where a team of five rescuers awaited to be inserted in to the scene. Briefing from the pilot revealed that an extrication involving multiple technical revolutions would be likely and team members assembled all appropriate equipment.
By 1030, all rescuers had been inserted to the helicopter LZ, of which the first two, one EMT and one WFR, had made patient contact. The patient was confirmed to be in moderate pain but otherwise stable. Assesment revealed no additional injuries other than the right ankle and lower back tenderness. The two friends who were with the patient, also WFRs, had splinted the affected limb and insulated the patient with a sleeping bag and an emergency blanket. Rescuers further immobilized the patient in a full body vaccuum splint and packaged him in a Stokes litter.
The team assessed the terrain and scouted the talus slope for possible descent options. The extrication strategy would require a tensioned main line and a second safety belay line for multiple 600 ft rope lengths down to the end of the talus, then a 300-400 ft carry to the LZ. The main line was tied to the head of the litter and four people, two rescuers and the patient’s two friends, were tied in to the litter. There were three different anchors that were set up during the whole lowering process. Thus began the start of a nearly 6 hr revolution to move the litter a half mile and down over 2,200 ft of talus slope. Rescuers had to take their time managing their strength, efficiently choosing their route, and keeping eye on the setting sun. Towards the end of the talus slope, the 600 ft bely a line was able to be disconnected due to the low angle of the terrain and tied to the main line to complete a 1200 ft lower. The litter was then carried the home stretch to H82 and arrived just 8 minutes before the pilot’s hard cutoff time at 1942. The patient and gear were flown to the Bishop Airport where the patient was then transported to Northern Inyo Hospital.
Inyo SAR wants to extend a big thanks to H82 for its incredible support and to the friends of the fall victim, who worked tirelessly alongside the rescuers and provided an immense amount of additional manpower and optimism.