May 2019 Mono SAR Rescue: Back Country Skier Falls, Breaks Leg Badly

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 24 May 2019




Nasty Accident above Twin Lakes

Back Country Skier Falls, Breaks Leg Badly,
Mono Search and Rescue, May 20, 2019.

Rescue of May 18-19, 2019.

Little Slide Canyon, off Robinson Creek, above Twin Lakes

Backpacking Trail Map


"...up Little Slide Canyon. About 30 minutes after crossing the creek, they hit the snowline, and put on their skis and skins and continued up the canyon."

Little Slide Canyon

Knarly Back Country Accident
"On the descent, one of the skiers fell from about 3/4 height, and tumbled and slid down the couloir, and when the fall ended, he found he had multiple left leg fractures, but most notably an open tib-fib with considerable bone exposed."

Digital Tech Failure
"One of the group activated a PLB, and they waited for a helo to collect them (it was later learned that no PLB activation was recorded). The helo did not arrive, and one of their party hiked out to Mono Village and reported the accident to the SO."

"...3 large field teams were sent out."

Love those MSR-Style Shoes
"...the decision had been made to send the field teams with snowshoes as few folks had skis, skins, and ski crampons. Little Slide Canyon was covered in deep snow, and is quite steep in places, and the Team's technical snowshoes were well suited to the terrain."

Fricking Knarly, Difficult Rescue In
"The field teams arrived at the subject's location at approximately 2 am and found him to be in tremendous pain, and his injury grievous, with considerable blood loss. He was packaged in a SKED litter, and a long series of lowerings commenced."

Post-2am Recovery, Descent in Light Snowfall
Coming Down Little Slide Canyon 2am Descent in Light Snowfall, by SAR responder Mitchell Quirin.
Image by SAR responder Mitchell Quirin

Difficult Rescue Out
"...there was moderate snowfall all night, over 6" in all, and the uptrack was obliterated, making it difficult to retrace the route, and to find the litter and wheel. Eventually they were located, and the entire package of SKED litter and subject were loaded into the wheeled litter. The descent had many snow-covered sidehills, and these were very difficult to cross with the wheeled litter. In addition, there were sections of thick brush, willows, boulder fields, and dense trees."

Hazards for Rescuers
"The use trail was regained, and it was entirely different than it was on the ascent, due to the continuous overnight snowfall. There were very narrow, precipitous sections, and many smooth granite slabs now covered in fresh snowfall."

Difficult Steep Snow-Slick Terrain Teamwork
Difficult Steep Snow-Slick Terrain Teamwork, by SAR Ops Leader B. Beck.
Image by SAR Ops Leader B. Beck

No Help from the Sky
"Air resources were requested, but the weather was still a limiting factor. CHP H40 stated that they could not cross the Sierra, and Fallon was not sure what they could do."

Safety First: No Second Accident!
"Multiple belays were built to safeguard the Team and the subject as they continued the sketchy descent."

Daylight Descent
Out of Little Slide Canyon Towards Robinson Creek Canyon
Daylight Descent Out of Little Slide Canyon Towards Robinson Creek Canyon, Image by SAR Ops Leader B. Beck
Image by SAR Ops Leader B. Beck

Badass Rescuers
"It was not feasible to cross the downed trees with the litter, so the litter team hopped in the freezing cold 2-foot deep creek (after spending the entire night out in the cold and snow), and waded the litter to the other bank."

Difficult Robinson Creek Crossing
Difficult Robinson Creek Crossing, by SAR responder Mitchell Quirin.
Image by SAR responder Mitchell Quirin

"From there it was 3 miles on the snow-covered trail back to the trailhead, and urgency was indicated as the steady blood loss continued unabated."

All is Good
"The subject was handed off to Mono County Medics, and was then flown out on Care Flight. The subject’s ski partner indicated that after surgery, it is likely that the subject will not lose his leg; that is amazing considering the severity of the injury, and the time it took to get him out due to extremely difficult conditions."

Your Mono SAR Approaching Trailhead
Your Mono SAR Approaching Trailhead, by SAR responder Mark Zila.
Image by SAR responder Mark Zila

Real A Team
"The Team displayed extraordinary team work, competence, and professionalism in successfully effecting this extraction and rescue. At one point there were 18 personnel out in the field, and 16 of those were out for the entire duration from 7:37 pm on Saturday night until 9:14 am Sunday morning, a tremendous effort. The Team continues to perform outstanding work."

Backcountry Heros
IC Pelichowsky, Ops Leader Beck/Wallace. Responders: Patterson, Torrence, Hansen T, Zila, Buchanan, Bush, Creager, Hammack L, Hartstrom, Pavlovsky, Quiring, Anderson, Montgomery, Mosher, Mulligan, Evans, Senior, Padilla.



Bottom Line
These guys make me proud to be an American Backpacker...


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mountain safety, news, Mono SAR, rescue, Little Slide Canyon, Robinson Creek, Hoover Wilderness, May, 2019




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