Search and Rescue-West Couloir
To: All Media Partners
From: Sarah Roberts-Public Information Officer
Re: Press Release – Search and Rescue
On the morning of June 30, 2018 three hikers set out from Horse Creek trailhead near Bridgeport with the intent of summiting Matterhorn Peak. The three hikers agreed to a turnaround time of 1700 hours to ensure their return to the trailhead before nightfall. Hiker #1 and #2 made it to the base of West Couloir around 1630 hours, dropped their packs, and began the ascent up West Couloir. Hiker #3 had lagged behind and watched Hikers #1/#2 make the ridgeline and disappear toward the summit. Hiker #3 stayed with the packs left behind by #1/#2 and awaited their return, realizing he could not make the summit. At approximately 2040 hours, Hikers #1/#2 had not returned to their packs so Hiker #3 bivy’ed overnight to avoid traveling through the steep terrain in the dark.
On the morning of July 1st, Hiker #3 again waited a couple hours for the others to return, thinking they possibly bivy’ed like he did, before hiking back to the trailhead to summon help.
At approximately 1230 hours, Mono County Search and Rescue was notified by Hiker #3, (16) SAR members responded to the area and were provided excellent information from Hiker #3 as to the route(s) taken and description of Hiker#1/#2 including photos.
California Highway Patrol Helicopter H40 was requested to conduct an aerial search of the area and provide rescue assistance once the hikers were located. (5) SAR teams were sent into the field to follow the route taken by Hikers #1/#2 as well as to search other areas/routes commonly used to descend from Matterhorn. An additional Mono County Sheriff’s SAR high angle rescue team was in place should a helicopter insert/rescue be needed.
At approximately 1740 hours, H40 located two hikers near the area where the packs were left matching the description of Hikers #1/#2. Using the PA system onboard the helicopter, H40 was unable to get a confirmable response from the hikers if they needed assistance. Due to the terrain, weather and fading light, H40 found a suitable landing area and confirmed that the two hikers they had observed were Hikers #1/#2. They were exhausted and out of food/water. H40 loaded them both and flew them both back to the SAR base on scene.
After interviewing Hikers #1/#2, they had become disoriented on their descent and could not locate the upper entrance to the Couloir. As light faded and without their gear, they found shelter for the night in some rocks near the ridge to avoid travelling in the steep terrain in the dark. In the morning, they hiked down the east ridgeline and then had to retrace their original route back to where their packs had been left. After gathering their packs, they were contacted and flown out by CHP H40.
Thank you to the California Highway Patrol H40 crew and all of the Mono County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team for doing what you do!
Upon landing near the SAR base after the mission was complete (near a very populated camping area) H40 took time to make some new friends and gave several kids and curious onlookers an up-close look at their helicopter, they may have even set a CHP record for sticker distribution!
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