Editor's Note: Sierra Madre Search and Rescued released the following report on Monday, May 12.
The ongoing mild weather conditions continue to bring many people to our local mountains. With all of the visitors accidents happen and Sierra Madre Search and Rescue (SMSR) continues to have an above average spring with eight SAR calls in April.
Two incidents are described in more detail below.
Stranded Hikers, Big Santa Anita Canyon/Chantry Flat: SMSR was paged at 3:10 p.m. on April 6th, to respond for a rescue of hikers stranded in steep terrain off of the First Water Trail. Responding rescuers established a command post on the road near the parking lot and dispatched crews down the trail equipped for a cliff rescue. Rescuers arrived on scene and determined that 2 male and 1 female hiker were stranded approximately 120’ over the side of the trail above Cabin 17. The steep terrain prevented the hikers from safely ascending or descending. After rappelling to the subjects and determining that they were uninjured, rescuers set-up for a high angle stranded hiker rescue and lowered all 3 hikers safely to the canyon bottom. This type of rescue scenario is not uncommon. It is often very easy to get into an off-trail area and find that it is not possible to safely ascend or descend. Avoid placing yourself in this situation by staying on the trail and not relying on old ropes you may find left in some locations. Ropes may be old, damaged or end high above the canyon bottom. The rescue was secured after all personnel were out of the field at 6:20 p.m.
Missing Hiker, Echo Mountain area: SMSR was paged at 12:07 a.m on Monday, April 28th to assist Altadena Mountain Rescue (AMRT) in the search for a missing hiker near Echo Mountain above Altadena. AMRT had been dispatched on the search just before 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 27th as a result of a 911 call. Rescuers were able to briefly connect with the hiker and obtain limited information about his location before the phone’s battery power was too low to establish a connection. Crews from SMSR, AMRT and Montrose Search and Rescue were assigned to cover the local trails in an attempt to locate the hiker. High winds limited the ability of helicopters to assist in the search during the evening.
At approximately 4:30 a.m. a SMSR crew made voice contact with the missing hiker in an off-trail area. Due to the extremely rugged terrain, pinpointing his exact location proved to be difficult, but crews were able to spot faint light coming from the hiker’s cell phone. Using map and compass, rescuers were able to determine a compass bearing to the hiker’s location. This information was relayed to the command post and at first light, LA County Sheriff’s rescue helicopter, Air 5, determined his exact location and performed a hoist extraction. The subject was uninjured and was flown to Farnsworth Park in Altadena. Rescuers hiked out and the operation was secured at 9:45 a.m. While not always obvious during the “Breaking News” segments on our local news, this type of operation highlights the close coordination between the ground SAR teams, other emergency responders and helicopter crews that is necessary to safely conduct mountain rescues.