Hikers Injured in Snow
November 8, 2022
Written by: Steven Rider and Beth Jeffery
Tuesday, November 8th RMRU received a call that (SBSO) San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office was requesting assistance for a possible carryout with (SGSAR) San Gorgonio Search and Rescue. Four RMRU team members reported to the command post. James was first to arrive, and while being briefed learned that rather than a carryout the mission would be to reach the subjects and stay with them overnight. There was a severe storm with torrential rain at lower elevations and snow and high winds up higher on the mountain.
SBSO considered whether it would be safe sending a team up in the storm. We were very confident we could do it, and after some discussion it was deemed possible and necessary. It was decided that three members would go up and one would run base. Matt would run base while James, Steven and Tobias would go to the subjects. The three were driven to the trailhead and began our ascent at 5:38 PM.
We hiked up the mountain, traversed a ridge then dropped into the canyon ultimately reaching the subjects location at approximately 2:00 AM. Another team was sent the following day Wednesday, November 9th which included Ben of SGSAR as well as two RMRU members, Beth and Blake, for resupply and relief. Aviation was on standby and had made several fly-over attempts but was unsuccessful for a hoist operation secondary to inclement weather.
Knowing that we had enough supplies and considering the current conditions it was decided that the same RMRU members would stay with the subjects another night and the relieving mountain rescuers were turned around. RMRU stayed with the subjects a second night. On Thursday morning November 10th there was a break in the weather and aviation was able to begin hoists. Two subjects and three RMRU members were flown safely off the mountain and back to CP by 8:57 AM.
In the late afternoon of Tuesday November 8, 2022, RMRU received a second call to assist San Gorgonio SAR Wednesday morning with taking extra supplies to the stranded hikers and relieving the 3 RMRU team members that were going up the mountain Tuesday night.
Two RMRU team members, Blake Douglas and Beth Jeffery, reported to assist Wednesday morning at 7:00am. The two team members and Ben from SGSAR were dropped off at a snowy trailhead Wednesday morning at 9:30am. The three began route finding as they climbed up the mountain in fresh snow that fell the night before. They were hopeful the fog and wind would clear enough for a helicopter to hoist the subjects and team members off the mountain.
But the fog only cleared for about 10 minutes before it quickly rolled in again. The helicopter made several attempts to get to the subjects but was unsuccessful due to the weather. The three rescuers ended up hiking about 5 miles and 4700 feet of gain in over 5 hours. We were post-holing and dealing with icy conditions. With about 300 more feet to climb to the point where we would descend in to the drainage, the command post told the us to turn around. With limited daylight, the team still needed to descend into a rocky and icy drainage from 9800 feet down to about 8200 feet and the team would arrive after dark.
The team was able to retrace the snowy trail back and returned to base. The three were back to the command at 6:30pm. The following morning, the weather cleared for a successful hoist.
RMRU Members Involved: (Blake Douglas, James Eckhardt, Matt Frenken, Beth Jeffery, Tobias Moyneur, Shani McCullough and Steven Rider)
Other Agencies: (San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Teams) (San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Rescue Helicopter)