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Fall on Snow, Unable to Self-Arrest, California, Mount Conness


California, Mount Conness

On October 7 at 1530, Deputy Randy Hysell, the SAR Coordinator for the Mono County Sheriff s Office, called me, requesting the park’s assistance with a rescue. His information was second-hand at that time; he had been told only that a climber on the Conness Glacier (adjacent to the park boundary at Mount Conness) had suffered a broken leg. Hysell asked that the park helicopter, H51, assess the situation, and I accepted.

H51 located the victim at 1618. According to Jeff Panetta, the helitack person aboard, he was with two companions about two-thirds of the way up the glacier, at 3500 meters. He was conscious, appeared stable, and indicated that his right lower leg was injured. The three climbers were roped together on a slope that was less than 35 degrees but contained several crevasses.

H51 was able to land 50 meters above the party, but evacuating the victim would require hauling him over the snow up to the ship or shorthauling him directly from his location. Given the altitude, the terrain, and the late hour, Panetta felt that a hoist from a Navy UH-1N would be faster and safer than those options, so Hysell requested a ship from Naval Air Station Lemoore. While we waited for the Lemoore, H51 dropped overnight gear to the party, and Rangers Dan Horner and John’Roth prepared to be dropped off at the scene with medical gear, to spend the night if necessary.

At 1300, H51 led the Lemoore helicopter, Angel 1, to the scene. At 1840 Angel 1 loaded the victim directly aboard while in a one-skid hover and returned to Toulmne meadows. He was transferred to Centinela Hospital in Mammoth by June Lake Ambulance. His partners hiked out that night, leaving the NPS survival gear at the foot of the glacier. Rangers recovered it on October 9.

The victim, Richard Hasbrook, stated to me that all members of the party had several years of mountaineering experience and were well equipped. They had climbed the glacier and a couloir above and were descending about 1300 meters when he slipped. He immediately rolled to self-arrest, but before he had slid more than a body- length, his right crampon caught. His body rotated, his foot didn’t, and he suffered a spiral fracture of his right lower leg. The party splinted it with ice axes and had gotten him a rope-length or two down the glacier when we arrived. (Source: John Dill, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

(Editor’s Note: Here is a good example of (1) a climbing party prepared to take care of itself and (2) swift and efficient decision making on the part of the SAR Ranger from Yosemite.)