A Memorial Day hike ended with a mountaineering accident yesterday, when a 56-year-old man from San Jose, CA, one member of a three-person hiking group, fell approximately 500 feet from the summit ridge of Mount Russell, on the eastern boundary of Sequoia National Park.
One of his hiking partners, a 45-year-old woman from Milpitas, CA, grabbed him as he lost his balance, and also fell, but was able to self-arrest approximately 30 feet down. The third member of the party used a satellite device emergency locator beacon to declare an emergency, and then called 911 from his cell phone.
At the time that the call was received, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ Helicopter 552 and other rescuers were already engaged in rescuing an unconscious hiker from the Big Five Lakes area, so the search and rescue team and Helicopter 551 from Yosemite National Park responded to the Mount Russell emergency. The Yosemite technical short-haul team rescued the injured woman from the ledge and transported her to Bishop, where she was admitted to the Northern Inyo Hospital. Later, she was transported by air to a hospital in Reno, NV, where she underwent surgery. Prior to the rescue, the Yosemite team was able to confirm that the 56-year-old man died in the fall. Today, a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks team retrieved him from the Mount Russell area, and he has been transferred to a funeral home.
The parks responded to eight separate search and rescue incidents over the three-day holiday weekend. Over the course of what is expected to be an extraordinarily busy summer in the parks, visitors to the front country and the wilderness alike are strongly urged to prepare carefully for trips, and understand completely that you may need to be self-sufficient in the event of an emergency. There is never any guarantee that rescuers will be able to reach you quickly. Understand your limits, take care of the people in your party, and always be prepared to turn back.