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Rescue on Mount Russell...WTF?


Original Post
Adios, Supertopo! · · Western US · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0
inyosar.com/mt-russell-rescue/

Anyone have any beta on this?  I'm scratching my head.

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 7, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency satellite transmission requesting a rescue near Mt. Whitney. A party of four climbers attempting to summit Mt. Russell (14,088’) had gotten off route while descending and were stuck on the side of a cliff above a steep couloir (around 13,000’ in elevation). The party had no way of getting either up or down.

Inyo County Search and Rescue and CHP – Inland Division Air Operations were asked to assist in the rescue. At approximately 5:30 PM, CHP located the four subjects on Mt. Russell and lowered an Inyo SAR team member via a 100’ cable hoist to their position. The Inyo SAR member secured the climbers on the cliff and hooked up one of the subjects to be hoisted into the helicopter.

The helicopter took the first subject to the Lone Pine airport and refueled. When the helicopter returned, the rescue team hoisted the remaining three climbers and dropped them to their camp near Lower Boyscout Lake one at a time. The Inyo SAR member was finally hoisted into the helicopter at approximately 7:30 PM and taken to Lone Pine.

Because of a big winter season, the High Sierra still has a significant amount of snow. Difficult and potentially life-threatening alpine conditions will likely remain in the Sierra backcountry throughout the spring and into summer; climbers and hikers attempting Whitney and surrounding peaks need to be properly prepared and experienced.
Inyo SAR and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the CHP Inland Division Air Operations crew for their professionalism and extreme skill while aiding in this rescue.
Mike Mu. · · hagerstown · Joined Feb 2007 · Points: 65

I guess they didn't have anyone with your namesake present to get them out of trouble

Sloppy Second · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2018 · Points: 0

Are you wondering why they "had no way of getting either up or down" ?

Adios, Supertopo! · · Western US · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

I'm wondering about a lot.  Looking forward to hopefully more details coming out.

jt newgard · · San Diego, CA · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 195

Thanks for posting up. We were climbing on El Segundo Buttress and wondering why the helicopter was going back and forth. Best we could tell it was hovering around Iceberg Lake.

The rescue occurred late in the day .... glad they didn't have to spend the night out -- pretty sure SAR won't do helicopter operations at night.

PS. SAR capabilities continue to amaze me. Saw a guy get picked off the Sawtooth Ridge by Matterhorn Peak a few years ago. They called in a Chinook for that one. He wasn't so lucky and spent a night in the snow with a badly broken leg. Would also like to hear more details regarding this rescue .... will withhold any judgment until then .......

Caped Baldy · · San Diego, CA · Joined Jul 2018 · Points: 110

They probably saw my awesome beta for a quick descent off the south face and went down there instead of retracing their steps on the East Ridge.  Seriously though, the description of the 100' drop, gully, and elevation all leads me to think that's what happened.  The "crux" is just right below the ridge.  This matches the picture from the SAR team.  Inyo SAR is being nice and saving face for the climbers by saying there's no way up or down.

Adios, Supertopo! · · Western US · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

I've been up that way several times, and if memory serves - being able to plunge step down a snow-filled chute would only make the couple exits off that side easier.  My guess is perhaps they were more hiker than climber, and got spooked on some 4th class.

NorCalNomad · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 110
Competent Leader wrote:...My guess is perhaps they were more hiker than climber, and got spooked on some 4th class.

This sounds like a good guess since the whole "can't get up or down" sounds....odd
Michael Lagueux · · San Diego, CA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 326

Here's a video of part of the rescue posted to the CHP Inland Division Air Operations Page:  

Adios, Supertopo! · · Western US · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

Thanks for the video, trying to match up that aerial with the side view of Russell and determine where they might have been...so I can decide if I'm impressed or not.

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 113

There's a video on the la times site that shows where they were better.   They went too far east and passed a vert section then got cliffed out again. How or why idk. 

Adios, Supertopo! · · Western US · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

If you have Failbook, this is the video Turtle is referring to above:

https://www.facebook.com/InlandDivisionAirOperations/videos/417163985727636/

This also shows where they were plucked from, if you're familiar with the area, you realize how odd this spot is:

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Northern California
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