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June, 2018: Serious Spring Snow Accident on Mount Whitney | High Sierra Backpacker

June, 2018: Serious Spring Snow Accident on Mount Whitney

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 14 June 2018




Serious Spring Snow Accident on Mount Whitney

Pro Rescue brings Two off Whitney by Helo, One able to Self-Rescue

Inyo, Mono Search and Rescue members aid hikers,
Sierra Wave, June 12, 2018.




"...approximately 9:30 am on Sunday June 10th…"


"...above Mt. Whitney’s Trail Camp." (Trail Camp is at 12,039 feet)



"...three victims …"


"One hiker had slipped while ascending the snow-filled ‘Chute’, a hazardous short-cut often used in the spring when the normal trail is under snow, tumbling an estimated 500’, hitting the second and third victims during her fall."



Inyou County SAR Responds

"Eleven team members responded and were moving towards Lone Pine by 10:30 am."

"The team was met by CHP helicopter H-82, which had flown by the accident scene and located the patients."

Rescue Environment

"Due to flying conditions and the high elevation of the site the helicopter could only fly one SAR member at a time. The first team member reached the scene shortly after noon with the second and third following shortly after. The remaining team members stayed down in Lone Pine to provide incident command, communication management, and a ground team if necessary."

"One victim was able to get out on his own. The other two had moderate to major injuries including major head and facial trauma and pelvic and spine injuries; they were roughly 150’ apart, on a 30º snow slope."

"Other hikers, whose aid was essential to the operation, had stabilized the patient’s positions, preventing further sliding down the slope. SAR members, with the aid of the other hikers, were able to treat both patients and package them for transport."

"CHP H-82 was able to effect a hoist evacuation of each patient in extremely challenging flying conditions."



"For those considering an early season Mt. Whitney hike: plenty of snow remains on the trail and snow travel should not be considered without carrying an ice axe, crampons, with formal training in their proper use. If you slip you likely will not have a chance to stop your fall."


My Two Cents
That's GREAT advice, given above. Snow Travel Skills and Travel Gear are typically still required by High Sierra backpackers at this time of year, along with provisions for adequate shelter and excellent insulation.

Warm snow can soak you and everything you have during the day, then chill you down at night, if not freeze you up. Readiness for these conditions is crucial.

Failure to pack the proper gear and accquire the skills and experience necessary for safe Spring travel along the Crest of the High Sierra has ended many, many ultralight-geared PCTer's hikes, and taken quite a few of their lives, over the past couple of decades I've been watching.


Other People's Problems
This is exactly why I carry an extensive first aid kit. If it ain't me plunging into the unknown, it will be someone else. Hopefully, one of us can still use my first aid supplies effectively...

Now, just imagine you came upon these three cited above, but not on the popular and busy Mount Whitney, but far, far beyond any trailhead, and way beyond cell phone signals. Our rescue request will be a healthy backpacker walking-running as fast as they can to the trailhead.
Not only will we need my extensive first aid kit, we'll all be happy I've got a tent, the bit of extra insulation, and the extra day's food I always carry.



Winter Backpacking Gear Video and Notes
Gear Selection thoughts, Worse Case Scenario, First Aid Kit


Trip Planning & The Weight of Time on Our Backs...Lots of Time



SEKI Trail Conditions page is reporting snow & heavy snow above 9 to 9500 feet.



Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide

Snow and Runoff Information

The High Sierra Reporting Stations, by Highway Corridor and Watershed

The High Sierra Calendar, with reporting stations along the Sierra Crest, June 9 Reports



Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide




Tahoe to Whitney "Magazine" (Soon!)

High Sierra Travel Status, June 7



All Mountain Safety News & Topics




June Trail News





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June 2018 spring conditions Mount Whitney accident rescue


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