Injured PCT Hiker

March 10, 2020
Marion Mt. Trail

Written by Blake Douglas

It was around 11pm on Monday March 9th, and I had just gotten home from day 4 of the Roy search. Tyler Shumway and I had deployed in the late afternoon to work on tracking our subject but were diverted to rescue two locals before an incoming rainstorm hit. Just as I was hanging up my field gear in the living room to dry, another mission came in, this time for Marion Mountain, with the word that the subject had a hip injury.

With limited information to go on, this appeared to be an intimidating mission. Most of our members had used a substantial amount of their free time on the Roy search and the MRA Recertification over the course of the weekend, so very few of us were available The weather (a warm, slow-moving storm) would prevent the use of a helicopter, and stir up all kinds of snow, ice and rain issues. The nature of the subject’s injury would potentially require a carryout, which is always manpower-intensive, but particularly on a steep and uneven trail like Marion Mountain. Call Captain Gwenda Yates proceeded to request assistance from other local MRA teams.

The subject was an 18-year-old PCT hiker who reported that he had suitable equipment to make it through the night, so we arranged for a dawn start time. Team members from RMRU, Sierra Madre, San Diego, and Orange County teams arrived at intervals and made their way up the trail as soon as possible. RMRU members Derek, Jesse, and Beth were paired with the Orange County team. As the only responding member with snow experience, I was paired with two members of Sierra Madre; we were Team One.

Rescuer with Full Winter Pack
Image by Beth Jeffery

The three of us carried the rescue sled, through intermittent rain showers, up Marion Mountain trail and paused briefly at the junction, noting no signs of recent travel – there had been enough snowfall overnight to nearly wipe out the subject’s tracks. Due to garbled radio communications, we were under the impression that our subject was attempting to hobble down the trail toward us – which is not an ideal situation in snow, with an injury, in a place like the Marion Mountain junction. Fortunately, our subject was in fact, safe and sound in his tent, not far from the Fuller Ridge junction.

Sierra Madre Members at Subject Camp
Image by Blake Douglas

On evaluation, he was somewhat disoriented, but his injury was walkable; quite a relief because carrying him out would have required the efforts of every individual who responded. The fall that caused the injury had destroyed the subject’s phone, so he had no means of navigating and would need to exit the trail regardless of his medical condition. After lending him my helmet and micro spikes, we lashed his gear into the sled, and retraced our steps back down the trail, periodically encountering the other teams and recruiting them to help with gear hauling.

Rescuers with Litter and Wheel
Image by Beth Jeffery

We kept a close eye on our subject if his injuries worsened, but there were no issues and he arrived under his own power. We were all happy for the outcome and the complete lack of complications, right down to the torrential rain striking just as we were packing up our vehicles.

Lessons: One of the rules I use to govern my choice of gear when going into the field is the following: “Two is One, and One is None”. The point being that any gear that is essential to your life and mission needs to be backed up and combined with a “plan B”. Since our subject was relying completely on his phone for navigation, he was helpless when it broke, and had to activate his emergency beacon. Always carry a backup means of navigation such as a (map and compass) and be familiar with the area you’re going into before you go there.

RMRU Members Involved: Derek Donovan, Blake Douglas, Beth Jeffery and Jesse Rodriguez.

Other Teams: Sierra Madre, San Diego, and Orange County.