In an incident that easily could have turned tragic, a 47-year-old Bishop man spent Saturday night alone and without a sleeping bag, in a steep ravine below White Mountain, after two hiking companions abandoned him there.
The hiking companions then continued their hike up to the old, restored cabins at the Champion Sparkplug Mine, where they spent the night – with sleeping bags and under a roof.
Bishop resident Patrick Toon was hiking in on the trail to the mine Saturday when he became separated from his group, according to Mono County Sheriff’s Deputy Pete De George.
The two members of the group apparently tried to convince Toon to climb out of the ravine, but he was either too frightened or physically unable to do so, De George said.
The two companions, whose names have not been released by law enforcement, then continued on up the trail and spent the night at the cabins at the mine, he said.
“The reporting party said they believed that Toon had enough gear with him to spend the night,” he said.
But Toon did not, and he spent the night in the ravine, clothed in just the coat and gear he was wearing, De George said.
Saturday night was the night of a large storm in Mammoth and the Sierra, but the lower elevations of the White Mountains, where Toon was stuck, got very little snow. Nevertheless, the temperatures dipped below freezing, meaning Toon could easily have suffered from exposure.
Sunday, when the two hiking companions hiked back out, they found Toon right where they had left him, De George said.
“The reporting party said again that he tried to coax him out of the ravine, but could not.”
The two then called for a rescue at about noon
Sunday, he said.
When Mono County Search and Rescue got the call, they headed up. It took another nine hours to get Toon out of the ravine and to the hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening minor injuries, a SAR team member told the Mammoth Times.
De George said there is no evidence of a crime, but the incident remains under investigation.
If Toon had died during the night, the issue could have gotten complicated quickly, he said.