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I feel so grateful to be alive today, and am so thankful for the amazing Longhorn Search and Rescue (SAR) Team of NAS Fallon, Nevada, and the Mono County Sheriff SAR volunteer team for coming to my aid. After a beautiful week in the Yosemite area, my hike on Thursday 8-29-13 was around Lundy Lake in the Hoover Wilderness outside of Yosemite. On the last part of my hike, I was climbing up Lundy Pass, a very steep trail, with loose shale and rocks. You almost have to crawl up parts of this to the top of an incredibly scenic 10,000 foot summit. I'd done it 10 years ago, and the trail was challenging then, but not dangerous - if you watched your step. Since then, many little rock slides have obliterated parts of the trail.
I lost the trail and ended up 2/3 up in a very dangerous and tenuous situation, climbing and clinging onto rocks that sometimes gave way even when tested. I couldn't easily go back down, so was climbing very slowly and carefully, with great effort, when the foothold that I'd tested first and seemed okay just collapsed and I fell 5-10 feet and cut my shin open. I luckily braked a total free-fall down the cliff on a protruding ledge. The really harrowing part was climbing up the last part, and realizing that I could fall and be dead with one misstep, with my leg profusely bleeding in spite of the bandage I'd applied. I was shaking uncontrollably, and seeing "spots" that precede fainting when I finally got to the top. I realized that I was probably in shock. So even after drinking more fluid and eating some sugary "sports beans," my plan to hike over the crest to the 20 Lake Basin, with a 7 mile hike back to a different trailhead wasn't feasible. I was staggering when I tried to walk. I did have lots of layers of clothing, a space blanket, and about two cups of fluid. It was getting late and was chilly at 10,000 feet. I probably wouldn't have died of hypothermia if I did have to stay up there without a rescue, but it would have been a pretty uncomfortable night. I was wearing my headlamp, and had a flashlight.
I was prepared to do jumping jacks all night - or whatever I could manage, to avoid hypothermia. I kept feeling like I was going to pass out and was still shaking, and I was worried about being in shock and maybe not in my normal physical and mental condition. I really considered whether to use the ResQLink device I'd rented for the week. I didn't know for sure that I was going to die, but I decided that I didn't want to take any more life-threatening chances that day. I set the device off at about 5:30 PM and then waited. And waited. The ResQLink device had a strobe that was flashing. At about 9:30 PM, I was ecstatically happy to hear the helicopter coming. It was about 4 hours of wondering if the rescue device had worked, and then wondering if anyone would come.
The Longhorn SAR team had to hover the helicopter four feet off the ground, which was too steep and rocky to land. I am so grateful for their skill and bravery in coming out in pitch dark at 10,000 feet to pluck me off the mountain top. They hoisted me aboard, bandaged my bleeding leg, and on landing, transferred me to the care of the wonderful Mono County Sheriff volunteer SAR team, who drove me (and my car) to the Mammoth Hospital where I they stitched my leg up. I'm now back home in Berkeley.
Thank you ACR!
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