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My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby MichaelRPetrick » Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:45 pm

So very glad this ended as well as it did, and thank you for writing it up. See you back on the trails!



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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby gary c. » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:44 am

Wow, what an ordeal to have to go through. That is a much faster responce time than I would have expected from SAR. Thanks for posting.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby Yury » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:03 am

Rockyroad wrote: There’s also the problem if I just accidentally dropped my tracking unit.
On 14ers.com you can find a story of a guy who has dropped his inReach.
To prevent this I put my inReach in a top pocket of a backpack, rather than clipping it to a shoulder strap (as in photos on Garmin website).
Last edited by Yury on Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby Hobbes » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:07 am

Michael, glad to hear about your rapidly improving recovery. I delayed reading your report since I knew it would trigger memories of some semi-close calls I've had in the past that luckily turned out ok.

It's going to be a wonderful spring in the coastal mountains, so perhaps you'll have a chance to get back in shape from local hiking. Both Stephens Creek & Lexington will be (actually, already are) brimming full, so you can both hike & fish!

Boy, looking at that video definitely conjures up some memories. I distinctly recall standing at the top of that waterfall. I think I was there the day after your incident. I must have camped exactly where you did at the west end of TI (around 7pm), but don't recall hearing any helicopters.

I have a question as to orientation. In your initial report from last year, I seem to recall you mentioning you began to descend down the left side of the waterfall (looking down from the top). However, in the video, it appears you are lying down at the bottom of the right side of the waterfall. That is, just above at the cliff top is where I was looking down for the descent route (from the right side of the waterfall).

If you stop the video @ 2:13 (2:10-2:15), https://youtu.be/xeoZ_yYdt4Y?t=133 you can see the edge of the horseshoe cliff gradually drop off a bit until it reaches the ridge-line where the helicopter has landed. That's the route I took. While it was no longer a shear cliff, it still required some class 3 down climbing using all feet & hands. I do recall while standing above the top of the cliff that if I couldn't find a reasonable way down, I was going to hike back to Mammoth.

Again, good luck with your ongoing rehab & recovery.
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby Rockyroad » Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:36 pm

Hobbes wrote:I have a question as to orientation. In your initial report from last year, I seem to recall you mentioning you began to descend down the left side of the waterfall (looking down from the top). However, in the video, it appears you are lying down at the bottom of the right side of the waterfall. That is, just above at the cliff top is where I was looking down for the descent route (from the right side of the waterfall).

If you stop the video @ 2:13 (2:10-2:15), https://youtu.be/xeoZ_yYdt4Y?t=133 you can see the edge of the horseshoe cliff gradually drop off a bit until it reaches the ridge-line where the helicopter has landed. That's the route I took. While it was no longer a shear cliff, it still required some class 3 down climbing using all feet & hands. I do recall while standing above the top of the cliff that if I couldn't find a reasonable way down, I was going to hike back to Mammoth.

Hi Karl,
I definitely came down the right side, looking down the falls. Maybe I previously meant left side, looking up. I started climbing down a little earlier than you, somewhere along the cliff seen in the video @ 2:22. It was easy class 3, requiring hands and feet but not too steep. Then I got to a point where there was nothing to hold onto.

I knew you were also heading down towards Twin Island Lakes the next day or two so thought to myself that if SAR didn't come, I'd keep an eye out for you.

Hobbes wrote:It's going to be a wonderful spring in the coastal mountains, so perhaps you'll have a chance to get back in shape from local hiking. Both Stephens Creek & Lexington will be (actually, already are) brimming full, so you can both hike & fish!


Fremont Older Open Space and the Stevens Creek reservoir area are not too far from my house, so I mt bike there all the time. You seem to know the area well for a Socal guy. Did you used to live in the SF Bay Area?
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby Hobbes » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:03 pm

Saratoga HS, class of '76; parents still live in the house I grew up in. Headed south to UCSB and stayed in SoCal. Still visit a few times a year doing the I-5 north/US 101 south loop routine.

I learned how to surf in Santa Cruz, so I have fond fond memories of bud, beer & babes - not necessarily in that order - while cruising back & forth over the mountain.

As to your location, your clarification makes sense. After I looked over that cliff edge I kept walking south-west. Within 100 yards+- , I got to a more ledgy area where it was maybe 45-60 degrees, but not shear/slick and with plenty of handholds. As I mentioned above, you can see the more gradual drop down past (ie just north of) the secondary ridge where the helicopter landed. From there, it was fairly straightforward to reach the lower meadow Roper describes on page 170, paragraph 2. (Which you can also see directly below the helicopter ridge @ 2:15.)

However, I should mention that once I was down in a perfectly safe 10-20 degree area, one of my heels happened to step on a small plant growing between some rocks while I was traversing between two boulders. (Both the rocks and vegetation were dry - it was around 10am with full sun. The puffy leaves themselves contained enough moisture when crushed to create slippery conditions.) In a flash I was instantly on my ass as my feet flew out in front of me. The end result of this 2' fall were some nicely abraised elbows that bled like a stuck pig (I didn't have enough time to get my hands down), and a comfy bruised tailbone.

The rest of the area all the way to Bench canyon had really sharp talus - I kept nicking my legs, arms & hands everywhere. Lesson learned: maybe wear gloves along with long pants/gaiters in that kind of situation.
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby limpingcrab » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:33 pm

Thank you for sharing and great job adding the video!

Any chance your Dr in Fresno was Dr. Jeffcoach? That's my brother, he's doing a trauma fellowship there.
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby Rockyroad » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:31 pm

limpingcrab wrote:
Any chance your Dr in Fresno was Dr. Jeffcoach? That's my brother, he's doing a trauma fellowship there.

I just checked my Fresno paperwork and didn't see his name. Maybe he assisted?
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby copeg » Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:05 pm

What a nightmare scenario....thanks for sharing the full details of what happened. Glad to hear you pulled through it and are recovering.
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Re: My SAR below Lake Catherine and Rehab

Postby limpingcrab » Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:52 pm

I just checked my Fresno paperwork and didn't see his name. Maybe he assisted?

Maybe, but he's usually the one with all the interns following him around now that he's doing a fellowship. He said there were a few fallen backpackers that got flown in this summer/fall and he wasn't sure which ones he worked on. I know him too well so I wouldn't trust him! ;)

Again, thanks for sharing this. And reaffirming my decision to get an inReach (I should say my wife's decision to make me buy one)
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