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Summer 2019 MONO & INYO SAR High Sierra Mountain Safety Information and Index

Summer 2019 MONO & INYO SAR High Sierra Mountain Safety Information and Index

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 23 November 2019


Summer of 2019 High Sierra Safety Intro and Reports
The Intro, Index, and Analysis Page

A Selection of Typical High Sierra Mountain Safety Incidents

June 19 to September 29, 2019 Over Three Pages

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3


The Index, Introduction, and Analysis Page


To make ourselves aware of the wide range of external and internal threats we confront when departing the safety sphere of civilization entering the HIgh Sierra Wilderness.

More precisely, we use these SAR reports to see how & why people are requiring SAR assistance to better avoid hurting or killing ourselves while engaging the wilderness and wild beauties of the High Sierra.

Dangerous Beauty
These SAR incidents are all happening in some of the most beautiful terrain in the world, the classic High Sierra spaces and places we want to visit and explore. Thus it behooves us to understand the problems other explorers have encountered, especially to understand why they encountered them.

The following SAR reports clearly reveal some of the classic pitfalls and problems various visitors to our Sierra Wonderland have encountered. These are the problems we want to avoid. We study them to avoid making the same mistakes, if mistakes were made...

Accidents Happen!
Avoiding The Vortex of Doom
Bad information combined with inadequate physical preparation and improper gear can sufficiently degrade a hiker's judgment and decision-making facilities to significantly increase the chances of accidents happening. These combined factors of failure can create what I call the, "Vortex of Doom," accidents, where a combination of hiker degradations brings them to spiraling down into trouble.

Strong Hikers
Thus we always want the best information backed up by the best preparatory physical training with the correct gear draw together with sufficient experience to use all three well enough to keep ourselves as safe as possible during our Sierra travels. Slacking on any aspect increases our exposure to danger in the High Sierra.

Avoiding Danger
Therefore we're going to take a look at a wide selection of this year's Mountain Safety Incidents in the High Sierra requiring SAR extractions to better understand how we can avoid becoming the target of an SAR extraction.

Accidents Happen!
Despite our best efforts, accidents happen to even the best trained, informed, and prepped backpackers and backcountry travelers of any and all types. In these cases our information, training, and gear will switch roles, from maintaining our trip's pace and progress to getting us to a position we can either self-rescue, or get word to the professional SAR crews about our location and status.

The Second
If that's not possible, and we are stuck deep in untrailed High Sierra Backcountry, we better hope our, "backup," being the reliable person we've designated in civilization that is tracking our trip movements and noting our failure to arrive at our next waypoint, is paying close attention. At our point of failed return they wait a reasonable period, then begin hitting up the local SAR teams with information about how late we are, our route, our levels of experience, training, and gear.

When Accident Happen
But, despite our best efforts to stay safe and sound, you will be hella happy to see these mountain professionals when you are broken deep in remote wilderness, and need their help getting out of the mountains.
So, on behalf of all the hikers, backpackers, and climbers enjoying their pursuits under the umbrella of security provided by knowing our SAR folks are out there rescuing injured hikers, and ready to rescue more, I express our heartfelt thanks to all the SAR folks reading this, and especially the volunteer rescue crews, for their dedication and hard work keeping us all, even the hikers who never use them, safer.

My Deepest Thanks go out to all of the various professional and volunteers composing our High Sierra SAR Crews. Thanks!


Safety Analysis Continues Below Index






Page 1

August 11, 2019
September 29, 2019


12 Rescues of Note


Deceased Hiker on PCT above Leavitt Lake

Foot injury, Cooney Lake

Leg Lacerations, Lundy Canyon

Lower Leg Injury, Crystal Lake

Lower Leg Injury, Incredible Hulk

Broken Ankle, Incredible Hulk, Partial Self Rescue

Summit Check, Mt. Conness

Nine Year Old, "Runner"

Diabetic Emergency Between Barney & Peeler Lakes

Medical Issues, Agnew Lake

Medical Issues, Greenstone Lake, just west of Saddlebag Lake

Cascade Lake, NW of Saddlebag Lake





Page 2

July 22, 2019
August 10, 2019


11 Rescues of Note


AMS-HACE, Devils Postpile

Bouldering Accident, Open Fracture, The Dreamers

Unknown, Little Slide Canyon

Injury, Barney Lake

Body Recovery, Minarets

E-Ledges Tumble, Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route

Dehydration-Seizures Waugh Lake

Technical Rescue 3rd Pillar of Dana

Altitude Sickness Above Rush Creek Trailhead

Lost in Canyon of the Mokelumne River, TYT

"Anemia and sciatica," below North flank of Donohue Pass




Page 3

May 20, 2019
July 14, 2019


10 Rescues of Note


Technical Nightime Search & Rescue, Incredible Hulk

Lost Bristlecone Bathroom Breaker

Broken Ankle, McLeod Lake

Injured Hiker, Mt. Whitney

Evolution Traverse Fall

Cramps, Sherwin Lakes Trailhead

Lost fisherman, Starkweather Lake along Minaret Summit Road

Lost hikers, Valentine Lake, Sherwin Lakes trailhead

Ling Dao Search, Mount Whitney

Injured Whitney Climbers, Two Helicopter Transports




2019 Safety Analysis,

Information, Planning, and Training
People Failure-Planning Failure
What it looks like we've seen this Summer is that a whole lot of people, mostly urban folks who don't live or train in the mountains, going out into the mountains and getting skewered by the overwhelming internal and external physical demands the overwhelming physical arena the High Sierra confronts us with.

A few of these rescues look like folks who could have walked out, but contacted SAR to fly their lazy, suffering asses out, rather than take the suffering. SAR typically makes these capable but complaining people walk out...

Un-Cashable Checks
A whole lot of these incidents involve folks making plans that their bodies capacities cannot complete. These failed trips illustrate the necessity for all those who enter the wilderness of having good trail information, to accurately assess the difficulties of your objectives against this trail knowledge and honest analysis concluding that your levels of training and fitness are sufficient to complete the objective without too much suffering.

Trail-Backpacker Rating System
This Trail Rating Scale helps put the Sierra's physical challenges into an understandable context.

Good trail distance and elevation information is best backed-up by a very clear awareness of the physical level of fitness and training required to assure you can successfully, with a minimum of pain, suffering, and self-induced danger, execute your clearly laid-out, and accurate, hiking plans.

Make sure your body can cash the check your trip plan is writing...

What's Wrong with You?
Do you have physical or metabolic injuries, such as bad knees, bad feet, or blood sugar issues? These types of conditions can be potentially disabling under the extreme stresses of heavy backpacks, high angle climbing at high and increasing altitudes while being lashed by any combination of heat, cold, wind and rain, or maybe all in rapid sequence.
Nature can seem to have a twisted sense of humor, when she's not just delightful or destructive. We've got to be physically ready for all her possible moods. All of your particular, "issues," must be trained and tested to withstand High Sierra stresses before you even hit the trail.

Thus I've linked the Tahoe to Whitney Trail Rating System to particular states of fitness. I believe this relationship is more accurately predictive of the experiences backpackers of various levels of fitness will encounter on the High Sierra trails.

Collateral Costs
Failing to secure an understanding of the terrain and the physical talents necessary to cross it is a problem because it causes SAR to spend a whole lot of time, energy, and dollars to bail-out a whole lot of people who could have had excellent, productive wilderness experiences had they only ascertained the real challenges they were going to face, and had put in the regular training and prep time necessary to successfully engage the High Altitude High Sierra.

Now, they've put our SAR at risk, as well as themselves. Let's only call them out for unavoidable incidents, not for failures that should have been eliminated in our planing, training, and preparation for our trip.

Who’s Responsible for Your Mountain Safety?

Never Stop Moving

In any case, we should always be moving, training, maintaining and expanding our physical, observational, and analytical assets.

Popular Areas
Count & Amount

Whitney 5 

Incredible Hulk 3 

Minarets 1 



Mt Dana 

Hall Area 3 

Day Hikers, June Lake Access 4 

Day Hikers, Mammoth Pass Area & Lakes 4


Early Season Dangers

Old People
Do not put yourself into high altitude trails unless your can really rely on your fitness, meaning being able to jog or trot up and down hills at sea level, with your pack weight on your back, before you even think about trying to walk up and down high altitude trails carrying a heavy backpack.

Young People
Do not put yourself into high altitude trails unless your can really rely on your fitness, meaning being able to jog or trot up hills at sea level, with your pack weight on your back, before you even think about trying to walk up high altitude trails carrying a heavy backpack.

Young and Old Couch Potatoes need to do significant work, to assure themselves their lack of physical training will not require a rescue.


Day Hikers
Everyone must think about all the implications and possibilities implicit in their day hike, their overnight hike, or their major multi-day expeditions.

Gear. Fitness. Food. Do you have the proper gear if your day hike turns cold, or darkness falls faster than you can finish?

Do you prospective PCT-JMT-TYT-TWT hikers have the fitness to deal with hiking at least a half-marathon, if not much more, every day up incredibly steep mountains at high altitude?

Do you know the importance of having someone to check in with at the exact time you plan on finishing a perfectly-executed trip, or a section along your longer trip, along with considerations for an extra day's waiting time, as many trips and trail sections take longer than expected. At that point, a full day after our expected return time, we are seriously overdue, and our trip-tracker should call the appropriate SAR office your route tracks through.


Accidents happen, to even the best prepped, fittest, and safest backpackers. How's your first aid kit? Got an Ace Bandage?


First Aid

Fitness Standards







Mountain Safety

Trail News, November 2019








Nature News


Climate Destruction News



Bee News

Bear News

Spider Forum

Bird News

Small Mammals

Frogs and Reptiles

Butterfly News


Health and Fitness

Mountain Safety

Mosquito News

Female Trail

High Sierra History


Astro-Phys, Space, & Science News

High Sierra Geology News

Fish, Oceans, & Water News






High Sierra Mountain Safety, summer, 2019, Mono SAR, Inyo SAR, search and rescue, John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, central Sierra, South Sierra


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