Hoist North Face
February 21, 2020
North Face 6,500-foot level, San Jacinto Peak
Written by Cameron Dickinson
As we were flying out to handle a call of a female hiker with a broken leg (See 2/20/20 write-up for more detail), another call came though from dispatch stating that two male hikers were stuck on the north face of the San Jacinto Peak. After communication with the two subjects, it was determined that they would bed down for the night, and rescue would occur the following morning. I decided to stay the night at the Sheriff’s Aviation hangar, since I would be going out again in approximately 5hrs for the next rescue.
The following morning, I would be joined up with fellow team member Glenn Henderson (whom also was involved the rescue with me the previous night) at the aviation hangar. Being provided with the coordinates of the location of our hikers, we would map out and verify the type of terrain that we would be encountering to reach our subjects. Their location (north of San Jacinto Peak, and well to the east of Fuller Ridge & PCT trail) was up in a steep and wide ravine, with large bolder slabs, and a large vertical drop off on the down slope of their specific location. After consideration of all options, the safest and most efficient means for rescue would be with a hoist extraction with our Sheriff’s helicopter. It was a logical option since we were already at the aviation hanger, however the reality is helicopter extractions are not always an option, as higher winds, cloud cover, law enforcement related activities, etc. could prevent us from using a helicopter in any mission. If this mission required rescue team members having to hike to that location, set up and takedown of the technical gear, and navigating the steep and extremely rocky terrain, meant this rescue could have potentially taken 2 days to complete. We were grateful that all conditions were right for the extraction.
We proceeded to fly over to that location and would quickly locate our two hikers. Our Sheriff’s pilot and technical flight officer would hover over and just adjacent to our hikers and would lower myself down on the hoist to the center of large bolder, followed by Glenn.
The process to hoist out our two hikers was quick. They would be dropped off at the base of the mountain. Not long after, Glenn and I would be hoisted back out, and we would fly back to the aviation hangar after completing this mission.
Not exactly sure of their path of travel or the intended adventure, but understand they were hiking down from the Peak area and ended up getting stuck in the ravine. The hikers were in their mid-20’s, found in good health and spirit, had sufficient food, water, warmer clothing, but had only one ice axe (snow & ice was present at the upper elevations) and no ropes or technical gear. Staying on the designated trail would have prevented this, however it’s easily possible they may have unintentionally hiked off or lost the trail and tried to hike down the mountain on a path of least resistance and ended up where there.
RMRU Members Involved: Glenn Henderson and Cameron Dickinson.
Riverside Sheriff’s Aviation: Pilot Chad Marlatt and TFO Ray Hiers.