TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

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TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby desertdawg » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:21 pm


What was supposed to be a circumnavigation the northern part of the Ritter Range ended up as a test of skill in a potential life threatening situation.

We were planning to go from Rush Creek up over Rodgers Pass. down the Lyell Fork of the Merced river, over either Old Bones Pass or Forester Ridge to Blue Lake Pass through Bench Canyon over North Glacier Pass and return to Rush Creek. Unfortunately we only made it as far as Marie Lakes.

We left Rush Creek around 1:30 PM hiking in the hottest part of the day to Waugh Lake. After a very warm nigh here we set out for Marie lakes. We arrived around 3:PM. We decided to spend the night here rather than trying to cross Rodgers Pass. After securing a campsite with a view we wanted to climb the ridge to the north of Lower Marie Lake between Donahue Pass and the lower reaches of Mt. Lyell. As we got closer to the ridge my buddy decided it may save some time to climb a 40 foot section of mostly class 3 with some class 4 ridge with ledges. When we got to the base I told him the ledge looked out of my comfort zone so I was going to walk around to the saddle about 1/2 mile to the east. I watched him climb about 80% of the way up until he was out of view. As I rounded the corner to the saddle I saw and heard my buddy whooping it up as he had reached the ridge top. After about 5 minutes of photo taking I heard my name being yelled out like I have never heard before.

As my buddy was down-climbing. a 4 foot section of granite that he had used as a foothold climbing up gave way. He was about 15-20 feet down the 40 foot section. He fell about 15 feet landing on his groin area on a ledge. While in some excruciating pain he realized he was bleeding OUT of his *****. Obviously realizing this was very abnormal he thought he may have damaged his gall bladder causing internal bleeding. He still had to down-climb 15- 20 feet before getting to solid ground with a 3/4 mile 800 vertical foot walk back down to Lower Marie Lake. For the 30 minutes it took me to get to my friend he kept urging me to hurry as he was afraid he had internal bleeding.

Once I got to him he was in the lake in an attempt to slow the bleeding, it appeared to be working. We got him fully clothed in dry clothes then snugged him up in his sleeping bag. We made sure he had plenty of water and food. He was begging me to head out immediaitly to get help. it was 8:30 PM and I was reluctant. I felt that I could be risking injury myself.I had 12 miles to go to my car where my phone was. After about 2 minutes debate and under a nearly full moon I decided to go. I knew I wasn't going to sleep much. I grabbed my full pack with the intention of dropping it at the JMT-Rush Creek trail junction and making the final 8 mile trek with just a Camelbak.

At about 11:30 I stopped at a location that I assumed was within 1/4 mile of the JMT-Rush Crek junction. My plan was to snooze for an hour or so then get going. As I was taking my pack off my headlamp reflected of a small 2"x2" piece of material about 100 feet away. I did a double take and then ran through all the beams on my headlamp, sure enough there was a campsite there. I politely asked if anyone had a SPOT or satellite phone. One of the party had a cell phone. He thought it might work. We hiked back north about 10 minutes to a spot overlooking Waugh Lake and June Mountain, sure enough one bar! By midnight I was talking to Mono County SAR. For 1.5 hours I communicated off and on with SAR. The plan was a ground crew would be assembled and launched from Rush Creek with an estimated 4-5AM departure. A helicopter would be sent as soon as it was available, there was another rescue ahead of ours. SAR told me to contact them in morning to check on progress and await further instructions. In the morning, the gentlemen whose phone I was using was on a 30 day JMT thru hike and wanted to conserve his battery so I told him no worries I would just hike back up the JMT, there were plenty of people on it. Within 5 minutes of heading back up the JMT I ran into a group that had 2 satellite phones, the stars appeared to be aligned!! We tried for 20 minutes to get the satellite phone to get a signal, no luck with an unobstructed southern sky. Just as the sat phone got signal VHSVHS and Tarantula strolled up. Deciding it was cheaper to use a cell phone and how many questions SAR asks VHSVHS let me use his cell phone for at least 20 minutes. It was probably 9:30 -10:AM. The SAR ground crew was still 2-3 hours from my location, the JMT and Marie Lakes trail junction. The helicopter was plucking a climber off of Clyde Minaret, we had a wait ahead of us.In the meantime another person affiliated with the group who initially loaned me their SAT phone showed up with a cell phone. I thanked VHSVHS for his help and he set off to complete his adventure.

SAR knew there were 4 of us waiting at the junction including 3 with Wilderness First Aid First Responder. We were less than 2 miles from my friend but for some reason they did not want any of us going to my friend, we were perplexed. I knew they wanted me to stay to guide the ground crew in but why one of two of the others had to stay was puzzling.

At noon we saw the Blackhawk head into Marie Lakes, about 10 minutes later it was headed back to Minarets Vista. At about 12:45 SAR called to say my buddy was alive with no life threatening injuries. Yeah! I was told to hike to my car and check in when I got there. Within 10 minutes of leaving the trail junction I ran into the 3 person ground crew. They were told to head to Marie Lakes to get picked up by the helo, I suggested that was a bad idea as they had a lot gear and it was all up hill and the skies were darkening. About 3 hours later I saw a Bell Jet Ranger make two trips up Rush Creek, I assumed and it was verified later that this was to extricate the ground crew. They were plucked off the rocky shores of a very low Waugh Lake. I was at my car by 8:PM and asleep by 9 after 3 hours of sleep in about 38 hours.

SYNOPSIS: My friend has a torn urethra, a slight fracture to his pelvis, and a very deep puncture wound on the inside of his leg. He should recover though he is on a catheter for 3 plus weeks. Blood loss was not enough to cause concern. That was our main concern because his pants were soaked and we thought there was more internal bleeding.

Many, many, many thanks to Wilson Riggs of Southern Yosemite Guides who I woke up at midnight and allowed me to use his phone until 2:AM. VHSVHS for taking time out of his ambitious day to allow me to use his phone. Teddy and Ethan of the Athenia School and Andrew from Friends of the Inyo for staying with me until we received confirmation that all went well. If things didn't turn out well I'm not sure what I would have done without their support. The Mono County SAR team, who do not charge for their services and are a volunteer group. Please donate to support your favorite SAR team. Greg and I are very happily making a donation to this awesome group of people.

LESSONS LEARNED and OBSERVATIONS: Neither Greg or I panicked. I am still amazed out how calm we were considering the circumstances. While Greg was concerned about blood loss I was calming him by pointing out that the blood soaked up by his pants made the volume of blood look much worse, he had just walked 30 - 40 minutes with a very high heart rate and adrenaline flow so blood loss would slow dramatically as the heart rate slowed. There was no abdominal bruising to indicate internal bleeding. Greg was cognizant of the whole situation and never made any rash decisions. He never went into shock. Granted neither of us even pretended to have a grasp on the situation but for me at least these were comforting signs that things were not dire.

SAR repeatedly asked the same questions about our names and location of the victim. At least 3 times over 10 hours. I asked them why. They want to make sure you are telling them the(same) correct location. They don't want to send a team to the wrong place. It has been done before. It was a mis communication that had 4 of us waiting for the ground crew while no one made the 45 minute hike to notify Greg or our plans.

Always, always carry a charged cell phone. I would have had reception less than 1000 feet where Greg was laid up. I probably would have had reception at the location of his fall.

I spend a lot of time mountain biking, hiking, and back country skiing. I will be purchasing a PLB. Less that an hour before Greg's accident I was telling him about SnowNymph's adventure in Virgina Canyon.

Greg and I will be taking the 2 day Wilderness First Aid course in early November offered near our hometown.

I need to share so thanks for reading.

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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby rlown » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:51 pm

A nice write-up. and Great synopsis on lessons learned. The PLB or spot sounds like a better option than a cell, as you were just in a great place to get cell reception.

Glad your friend is ok, and there were so many willing to help on the trail. I never liked down climbing ropeless.

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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby mello » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:13 pm

Thanks for sharing that. I'm glad to hear your friend is okay.

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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby Flamingo » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:34 pm

Hey Desertdawg, I'm really glad to hear your friend survived, and that he'll live to hike again. Tarantula and I watched the Black Hawk operation from our vantage near Donohue Pass, and we hoped for the best. Until our next Sierra meetup. . . Cheers.
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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby sparky » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:46 pm

Glad everything turned out ok! Stay safe out there!
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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:51 pm

I'm glad your buddy is OK. Thanks for posting your harrowing story.
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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby Shawn » Wed Aug 21, 2013 8:46 pm

Hey DD - You did a good job getting help for your friend. Glad it came out relatively okay.
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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:30 am

Harrowing story. Glad it turned out okay.
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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby mkbgdns » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:30 am

sorry, I'm a cave-dweller who doesn't own a cell phone. what's a PLB?
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Re: TR: A Trip Gone Bad, Marie Lakes- August 16-18

Postby Vaca Russ » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:52 am

mkbgdns wrote:sorry, I'm a cave-dweller who doesn't own a cell phone. what's a PLB?

Me too, Until my GF suggested I get one and work required I have I have two cell phones. :rolleyes:

PLB = Personal Locator Beacon

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