Thursday, Jul 7, 2011
The afternoon of July 29th, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ dispatch received a satellite phone call from a rock climbing guide seeking assistance for a client who had fallen while rock climbing below the summit of ice-covered Starlight Peak near 14,000 feet. The 51-year-old man slipped and swung in mid-air on a rope. When he tried to stop himself from hitting an adjacent rock face, he suffered a fractured ankle. Rangers evaluated various factors, including access to the patient, rescuers’ exposure to high altitude, and potential rockfall in the area, and used a short haul, an emergency rescue tool, to move the injured climber to safety. A rescuer was lowered on a rope from a hovering helicopter to the victim below and rigged a harness to the injured man. The helicopter lifted both to a safer spot a short distance away at 11,500 feet, where the patient received medical treatment. The patient was stabilized and flown to Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop, California.This rescue was successful for several reasons, including ongoing staff training, favorable weather conditions, and the use of a B-3 helicopter, which is larger and more powerful than ones used in previous years. On contract in the park for the summer months, the B-3 helicopter allowed for easier access to higher elevations and provided greater carrying capacity, minimizing the number of flights to the scene.