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California, Sierra Nevada, Banner Peak

California, Sierra Nevada, Banner Peak. (See accident report.) The rockfall, followed by Elliotts moans, alerted Ellena and climber Bill Sundlad who was returning from Mt. Ritter. After locating Elliott, they stripped themselves of available clothing, food, and water, and lowered them to him on a rope. Ellena remained with Elliott, and Sundlad proceeded to Thousand Island Lake for help. Throughout the night Elliott was confused much of the time, and by morning he was markedly deteriorated by blood loss, dehydration, pain, and exposure.

At Thousand Island Lake, Sundlad sent word to Mammoth Ranger Station for help and returned with Steve Stem and A1 Gunter. At Banner- Ritter col they joined Lou Nothwang and Dr. P. K. Edwards, who, unaware of the accident, had ascended via the east cliffs from Garnet Lake. Equipment, food, water, and first aid gear were pooled, and the party arrived at a point about 100 feet above the victim at 12:30 P.M. on Monday, September 3rd. Two belay points were set; one 20 feet below the other, which allowed a better view of Elliott and would give better belay direction for hauling-up procedures.

Dr. Edwards was lowered to Elliott. Examination revealed a 1¼ inch laceration above the left brow, bilateral periorbital ecchymoses, a crushed right hand with incomplete amputation of the ring and middle fingers and fracture of the little finger, and a severely crushed right foot with gross swelling and multiple deep lacerations and compound fractures of the metatarsals. Elliott was mentally clear and had no obvious chest or abdominal injury, but was weak to the point of being totally incapable of assisting in his rescue.

A pocket knife was used to complete the amputation of the right ring finger. The middle finger was splinted to the index finger by roller gauze, and the remainder of the right hand wrapped in gauze, which was then enclosed in a canvas overmit. The toe and top of the light canvas right boot were cut away to accommodate swelling, and a sock pulled over the exposed part for protection. The remainder of the boot was left intact for its splinting effect. Gantrisin was administered for infection, Darvon for pain, along with the only available pint of water. First aid was completed at 1:30 P.M.

Elliott was tied into the hauling rope by a combined chest and groin harness fashioned from a bowline-on-a-bight. A climbing rope tied to Elliott was used to control the direction of ascent from below. At this time, Dr. Jim Fraser and George Crisp, also unaware of the accident, arrived via the col and the east cliffs from Garnet Lake, increasing the party strength to seven. After Elliott was hauled up, Dr. Edwards, belayed from above, climbed up with the injured climber’s equipment.

Elliott was lowered down a class 3 chute adjacent to the main route chute, helped by two climbers descending beside him and belayed from above. In all, six belay stations were used to lower him 400 feet to the base of the chute which was reached at 5:00 P.M. A hammock litter was constructed with two 6 foot coils of climbing rope interwoven with sling rope and lined with a ground cloth. The six man carry was used in short hauls over the steep, loose talus.

An Air Force H-43B Huskie helicopter located the rescue party at 7:00 P.M., but the steepness of the slope made a pick-up impossible. The pick-up was completed at 8:15 P.M. near the col by the illumination of the helicopter’s landing light, and Elliott departed for the hospital in Bishop. The rescue party endured a forced bivouac near Glacier Lake and was met by the Forest Service near Thousand Island Lake on September 4th. Weather throughout the rescue was clear and settled, with temperatures ranging from the high 30’s to the high 70’s (°F).

Source: Lou Nothwang and Dr. P. K. Edwards.

Analysis: This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished by skilled personnel with imaginative use of available equipment. Resources at hand plus a prompt request for helicopter support proved to be adequate.