Snowy Night Mountain Rescue Mission on the Thumb 
Friday, December 20, 2013, 09:56 PM - AMRC
Posted by Administrator
The page out happened at 6:00pm (early!) and by 6:40, Tyler, Mike, and I were cruising up to the crest parking area. It took a while for everyone else to get up there, but eventually 15 members and our mastermind (Justin) huddled up. We hatched a plan to string fixed lines up the Northwest Ridge of the Thumb so that people could move gear up and we could get the patients off. The climbers were uninjured but hypothermic. They had started to climb at 7am, bonked and slowly moved up to about 700-1000 feet off the deck. Then they wrapped up in a puffy and sleeping bag and called us in to pull themselves off. The coherent climber said he didn't want to rap the other guy off since he was barely moving.

I was in the middle of a cold and hacking occasionally, but Tyler had talked me into joining the excitement. I really wasn't in good condition for an all-night epic, but figured I could help out. Things were not looking good though: pulling two people off the mountain rappelling them ~1000 ft and then hauling them up or down the La Luz back to civilization. Mike paired up Supra and headed off the start the climb. I led the team to secure the lines up to the patients so that the medical team (Justin and Dane) could prusik up to them quickly and easily if the helo wouldn't drop them off.

My team of 10 people split apart into a hastier team (Paul, Leigh, Tyler, me) and the rest of the crew (Brad, Mark, Sam, Mason, Michele, Brendan) because not everyone had crampons. The speedier, crampon team worked down the shortcuts and made it to the base of the climb fairly quickly. I even added a couple handlines for the steep snowy section leading up to the base of Pitch 1. By that time Mike and Supra had finished off the first 70 meters of the traditional climb and I helped them set the first line.

The National Guard were running a training mission nearby so when the IC contacted them, they were happy to come by and check out the situation. After sorting out which group they were supposed to rescue (ha), they dropped someone on a jungle penetrator next to the patients and hauled them off to Johnson Field. All that work for nothing! I waited for Mike and Supra to get down and we hiked out (extremely slowly) back to the crest with ice axes and crampons. With the frozen 300' rope in my backpack and cold (cough, runny nose, headache), it felt like I barely made it out. The rest of the final group (Supra, Paul, Mike) were also struggling. We got back to the trailhead/IB at 2:00am for the debrief. Home, showered, and in bed by about 3:30am, so I didn't feel guilty it was 10:00am before I show up at work the next morning.
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