California, San Gabriel Mountains (4), Echo Mountain—Early in the afternoon of December 3, Mr. and Mrs. Bowers (27) another adult and six children (two of their own) ages 5 to 9, set out to climb Echo Mountain (3,207). The ascent was accomplished without incident via the easy and popular Sam Merrill Trail. The party arrived on the summit around 4:00 p.m., and after investigating the old cable railway terminal on the summit, decided to descend to their car via the old railway incline. The incline approaches 45° in slope in one place and terminates in a vertical drop off at the bottom.
Near the bottom of the incline the party found themselves on very steep terrain composed of very unstable rock. Daylight was fast running out. The party thought it best to stay where it was and wait for help. It was at this time that Mrs. Bowers slipped and fell a short distance. Her injuries were minor but painful; however, this incident complicated an otherwise simple rescue situation. The party called to other hikers in the area, who in turn notified Altadena Mountain Rescue.
The rescue effort was organized at approximately 5:40 p.m. and completed by 11:30 p.m. Mrs. Bowers was evacuated in a Stokes litter and removed to a local hospital where it was determined that she had no broken bones but severe bruises and contusions. She has since recovered completely. The rescue team of thirteen men used standard mountaineering procedures in effecting the operation. The rescue effort was complicated by very unstable and falling rock. During the operation, rescue-man Dr. Robert McCullock slipped and fell a short distance, breaking his left ankle. He was able to administer first aid to himself and walk out. Rescue-man Vance Yost was hit in the left leg and right ankle by falling rock while rappelling with a victim. Although his injuries were moderate (bruises and contusions), and he was able to continue the descent, the incident complicated the rescue effort.
The weather was fair during the entire incident and aside from the poor rock, conditions were generally good. The party was dressed for an afternoon hike, and in the event they had been forced to remain stranded all night, they no doubt would have suffered from exposure.
Source: R. C. Gardner—Altadena Mountain Rescue Squad.
Analysis: This is another instance of an unorganized and inexperienced group of hikers attempting terrain that was unfamiliar and beyond their capabilities.