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Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:06 pm
Now that I’m able to post again, I wanted to share my experience with Mono County SAR and Mammoth Hospital in case it’s helpful to others and also to let everyone know of the extraordinary work of the volunteers a Mono County SAR and the excellent care at Mammoth Lakes Hospital. If you have something extra to pass along to the volunteers at Mono SAR, you can do so here :

This is the original matter-of-fact post on Mono County SAR:
August 8, 2019 #29

On August 8, 2019, at approximately 2:16 pm, the Team received a report of a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) in Little Slide Canyon. The Team responded to the trailhead at Mono Village, and field teams hiked toward the location. Prior to the arrival of the field teams, CHP H40 was able to extract the subject.
Here’s my more detailed perspective. An even more detailed recounting will be in a trip report of my entire trip, probably not until later this fall or this coming winter.

On the last day of my 7 day trip to Matterhorn and Spiller Creek Canyons, I was descending Little Slide Canyon. I had managed to deal with the upper snowfields by circumnavigating and/or hiking over them. A couple of miles down the canyon, another snowfield was blocking the use trail. A creek came down on the far side of the snowfield. On the rocks beyond, a duck marked the use trail’s path. While crossing the snowfield, I realized the snow hung over the edge of the creek and so was not fully supported underneath. I dropped down on my stomach to better distribute my weight and move to my right, away from the creek. Suddenly, I was sliding down uncontrollably and dropped 7 feet into the creek. As I lay on my back with the water running over me, blood gushing from my face, and excruciating pain in my shoulder and left leg, I realized I was barely able to move, much less hike out, and needed help. I pushed the SOS button on my SPOT messenger. It was 12:35

Using my trekking pole, I managed to get on my feet well enough to sit on the rock in front of me. I got my pack and camera bag off, leaving them on top of the rock. I staggered a few feet down the creek, climbed up on the bank, and lay down. As well as I could manage, I began blowing my rescue whistle. After about 15 minutes, husband and wife climbers from, of all places, Patagonia found me. They placed me with their sleeping pads behind me, fetched my pack and camera bag, got out my sleeping bag, and draped it over me to treat for shock. They then proceeded to fetch from the pack my spare glasses (mine had flown off in the fall) and additional clothing while staying with me until search and rescue came.

Another two hikers came along about half hour or so hour later and they also stayed with me. Words cannot express how grateful I am to these 4 people for making sure I was okay, as comfortable as possible, and straying with me until search and rescue arrived.

Sometime after 4:00, a helicopter finally appeared. My saviors waved, jumped up and down, and even made eye contact with the pilot. However, the helicopter few off. About a half-later, another smaller helicopter appeared. How the pilot was able to fly a helicopter in the narrow confines of Little Slide Canyon is extraordinary. The helicopter hovered straight overhead and dropped down a paramedic, Jim, to assess what was needed. The helicopter then landed a couple of hundred yards away.

Jim communicated with the helicopter with a walkie-talkie. He looked at my shoulder and thought it might be a broken clavicle. I was thinking, with assistance, I could walk to the helicopter. Jim helped me stand up and determined I was not really able to walk anywhere, much less to the helicopter. Since weight was a concern, they first flew my gear down to Twin Lakes, one my saviors carrying my pack and camera to the helicopter. They had me lie down in one of those helicopter stretchers. Due to the pain on my left shoulder, squeezing into the stretcher was rather difficult. Once I was all strapped in, I was hoisted up to the helicopter. All I could see was small rectangle view straight above me. A woman paramedic smiled at me and leaned out over my body to secure me to the helicopter. She said more to me, but I was unable to discern much above the din of the helicopter beyond that she knew exactly what she was doing and I was safe. They dropped me off in a meadow, fetched Jim, loaded my stretcher into the helicopter and flew me to the waiting ambulance in Twin Lakes.

They moved me from the helicopter stretcher to an ambulance gurney. Once in the ambulance, it was over an hour to the hospital in Mammoth Lakes. The paramedic in the ambulance asked me all the proper medical history questions and gave me some fentanyl for the pain. At Mammoth Lakes, I was finally able to phone my wife, who had been apprised of the rescue by Crystal at Mono Country SAR. The emergency room doctors and nurses, indeed everyone, at Mammoth Hospital, were fabulous. After scans and x-rays, they determined my shoulder was dislocated and not broken, in fact, I didn’t have any broken bones. The doctor and nurse reset my shoulder, and then moved me to a room in the ICU.

I spent all day Friday being well cared for by the doctors and nurses at Mammoth Hospital. My wife and son arrived that afternoon and spent the night in a motel nearby the hospital. On Saturday, they fetched my car back in Twin Lakes. The doctor said I was allowed to go home if I saw my Kaiser doctor as soon as possible. My wife drove me over Tioga Pass and then home.

The upshot of it all is I have been home and recovering. Aside from multiple bruises, the injuries come down to 3 fractured teeth and a damaged rotator cuff. I’m just happy nothing was broken. I’m grateful and thankful to the extraordinary people at Mono County Search and Rescue, Mammoth Hospital, and the four people whose names I am unable to recall who stayed with me until the helicopter took me away.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 4:48 pm
by maverick
So happy to read that you did not sustain any major injuries Lawrence! You were very lucky, and extremely fortunate to have other backpackers in the area come to your aide.
Thank you for sharing this ordeal, now get some rest, PT, and get ready for the next season. ;)

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:01 pm
by The Other Tom
Wow! Quite a story. Glad it wasn't worse. All the best to you and hope you get better soon.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:11 pm
by c9h13no3
Crazy story. Do you have the GPS coordinates/location of the snow field that got you? There's been a lot of incidents of people losing it in Little Slide Canyon, at least 2 this year: a skier on the Incredible Hulk gully and a girl with one crampon and one microspike.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:40 pm
by Harlen
So happy to read that you did not sustain any major injuries Lawrence!
X2! Best Wishes for a speedy and complete recovery. Ian and Lizzie.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:00 am
by Shawn
So glad ro read it wasn't more serious. You did all the right things, especially having that whistle handy. Here's to speedy healing.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:22 am
by Captain Slappy
Thanks for sharing the full story with great details. It's always helpful reading about trips where things didn't go as planned or where people decided to turn around.

Glad you were prepared and glad you made it out.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:55 am
Thank you for all the get well wishes. I’m meeting with the Kaiser PT person this week. The orthopedics person said it would be a couple of months before I can carry a pack again. Since I was expecting longer, that was good news.

I don’t have the GPS coordinates of exactly where I was in Little Slide Canyon. I just know I was well past the Incredible Hulk and had passed the climber’s campsite a few minutes before.

And, yes, I’m thinking of the next season. Hopefully, there won’t be quite as much snow. ;)

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:11 am
by bobby49
A rotator cuff injury might be a big deal, or maybe not. There are different variations of that, and each one presents a different weakness. I just had rotator cuff surgery in May, and I was on the trail in July. Still, it is motivation to reduce your pack load as much as possible. Now at nearly four months post-op, I am deciding if my shoulder can handle some caving.

Re: Mono County SAR, 8/8/19

Posted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:07 pm
by Rockyroad
So sorry to hear about your incident but glad you made it out. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.