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2017 was a record-breaking snowfall year for the Sierra. When I departed for my solo backpacking trip through some remote high elevation regions of the Eastern Sierra on June 25th, the mountains were still choked with snow. I was sternly warned by the ranger issuing my back country permit of the dangers and remoteness of cross country travel in such conditions.
To cross the Sierra crest from the Little Lakes Valley region, I ignorantly chose to ascend “the Hourglass” rather than the typical pass, North Couloir. Trudging through snow to ascend this section south of Mt. Dade was exhausting but not perilous. The snow had melted off the opposite side of the Sierra crest, revealing a steep granite cliff. I thought I saw a safe way down through a granite chute. When I had descended maybe 30 feet I realized this chute was far more technical than I anticipated. I ignorantly proceeded with my descent.
Soon after, I slipped and fell 50 – 100 feet down the chute. It was a miracle I stopped falling and was still conscious. However, I was bleeding heavily from my head and legs, could not move my left arm, and, most gruesomely, had been impaled by the ice axe strapped to my backpack during the fall. Self-rescue seemed fraught given my injuries and the chute I was stuck in, so I deployed my ACR PLB.
I first saw the helicopter several hours later, but they had difficulty spotting me so I ignited a journal I had in my backpack with a camp stove. With that they spotted me and announced their intention to return after hatching a rescue plan. They returned around sunset, and a rescuer was lowered to my position. He placed me in a harness, and they hoisted me into the helicopter. After we retrieved the rescuer, they flew me to the hospital.
Thank you ACR!
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