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Bad weather triggers multiple backcountry rescues

July 22, 2014

The Mono County Search and Rescue team used a litter to help an injured backcountry mule rider, thrown from his mule, on Saturday, July 19, near Agnew Meadows. Photo/Submitted

A backpacker who got lost in the Cora Lake area near Sonora Pass spent the night of July 18 in the backcountry during the monsoon-driven rainstorms last weekend, before he was rescued the following day.

The rescue efforts began on the evening of Friday, July 18 at approximately 9 p.m., when Mono County Sheriff’s dispatch received a call regarding a lost backpacker in the area of Cora Lake, approximately 12 trail miles south of S.R. 108, the Sonora Pass Road.

According to the sheriff’s department, the 22-year-old backpacker was able to send a text message to his parents requesting help; the parents then contacted the Mono County Search and Rescue team, which then began the search, which was complicated by the fact that there were three different routes to the lake that had to be searched.

The next day, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) H40 helicopter from Fresno also joined the search after SAR team members received another text message from the backpacker with a more precise location.

The helicopter then found the backpacker from the air, and in the rapidly deteriorating weather and increasing winds, the crew extricated him and transported him to the Mammoth Yosemite Airport in late afternoon.

The backpacker was uninjured and did not require medical attention.

To complete this rescue, SAR ground teams were in the field for 14 hours and logged over 120 hiking miles, the sheriff's offices said in a news release.

On the same day, later that afternoon, at approximately 3 p.m., eight members of the Mono County Search and Rescue team responded to another call for help, this time for two people who had been injured when the mules they were riding spooked and threw their riders.

The incident occurred near the Agnew Meadows pack station in Reds Meadow, about 1.5 miles from the trailhead at Agnew Meadows.

One rider was seriously injured, the other suffered a bruised leg.

The seriously injured rider was evacuated to the trailhead via a wheeled litter, where Mono County Paramedics transported the rider to Mammoth Hospital that same day.

The other rider with the bruised leg was helped to the trailhead, then also taken to Mammoth Hospital.

Later that weekend, on the early morning of Sunday, July 20 at approximately midnight, Mono County Sheriff’s dispatch received a call regarding two climbers that were stranded on Clyde Minaret.

The climbers had begun a climb on Saturday, July 19 on Clyde Minaret, a peak located in the Minaret Range approximately 12 miles northwest of Mammoth Lakes.

Because of the thunderstorms that occurred during the day, the climbers were unable to complete their climb before darkness fell, and they became stranded at 12,000 feet elevation.

Due to hypothermia and dehydration, the climbers were unable to complete the climb and descent on Sunday morning and the search and rescue team was called to aid the two stranded climbers.

The SAR team was able to obtain the assistance of two helicopters, one from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) H40 based out of Fresno, and the other from the California National Guard based in Stockton.

The CHP H40 helicopter crew was able to rescue one of the climbers, but because of the arrival of heavy rain and clouds, it was unable at first to rescue the second climber.

Two hours later, the rain cleared and the crew of the National Guard helicopter was able to retrieve the second climber.

Both climbers were flown to the SAR team base at Minaret Vista just north of Mammoth Mountain.

Neither climber required medical treatment after evaluation by the Mono County Paramedics.

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