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Night Baldy Mission Detailed by Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Volunteers

The technical rescue was conducted during the middle of the night in extreme mountain storm conditions that included high winds, snow, and freezing rain, a spokesman for the Sierra Madre volunteers said.

An injured hiker who fell from the Devil's Backbone on Mount Baldy had to be lowered more than 1,800 feet by ropes during a night rescue in extreme winter storm conditions, said Sierra Madre Search and Rescue volunteers who released details of the Christmas Eve operation this week.

A second hiker who was injured in an unrelated accident on Mount Baldy also required rescue, and due to significant weather helicopter hoist rescues were not possible, volunteers and law enforcement officials said.

The night rescue details were released Thursday with other incident accounts from December, when Sierra Madre Search and Rescue members responded to five calls for assistance, Chuck Stoughton of the nonprofit all-volunteer organization said.

The two hikers were injured Dec. 23 in snow and ice conditions on 10,064-foot Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County, Stoughton said.

Alpine-trained volunteers from Sierra Madre, Montrose, San Dimas, San Bernardino County and Kern County responded to the east side of Baldy around 5:30 p.m. that day.

"One of the injured hikers was stranded at over 9,300 feet on the mountain and was suffering from multiple serious injuries sustained in a fall along the Devil’s Backbone Trail," Stoughton said.

With helicopter rescue impossible on the storm-shrouded mountain, rescuers "lowered the subject over 1,800 feet by rope in a series of high angle lowers to the Sierra Club Ski Hut located near the base of Baldy Bowl and approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead," Stoughton said.

The technical rescue was conducted during the middle of the night in extreme mountain storm conditions that included high winds, snow, and freezing rain, Stoughton said.

The second hiker, who was injured in a different location, was also brought to the ski hut by rescue crews.

Rescuers and the injured hikers spent the night in the hut, called for additional personnel and carried the two hikers out on rescue litters, Stoughton said. They also escorted three uninjured hikers who required assistance.

"Once the trailhead was reached the injured hikers were loaded into waiting ambulances and transported to local hospitals for treatment," Stoughton said.

Two days after Christmas, the Sierra Madre volunteers responded to a report of a hiker stranded near the First Water Trail junction on the Mt. Wilson Trail in Little Santa Anita Canyon.

The call for help came just before 6 p.m. Dec. 27, and the first crews on scene discovered the hiker was stranded near the canyon bottom opposite from the trail, changing the situation from a "simple" rescue to a night rope rescue, Stoughton said.

Rescuers used ropes and climbing hardware to rappel 300 feet to the canyon bottom, then climbed more than 100 feet up cliffs on the east side of the canyon to reach the subject, Stoughton said.

The hiker was not injured but rescuers had to again use ropes to lower and then hoist the individual back up to the trail.

During the same incident, team members received reports of another hiker missing on Mt. Wilson. Volunteers started searching trailheads out of Chantry Flat wand located the missing hiker, assisted by some backpackers who had been camping near Hoegee's Camp, Stoughton said.

The second individual was not injured and rejoined his hiking companions to return home. Both operations were declared finished after 10 p.m. Dec. 27.

"December closed out a busy 2012 for SMSR with the Team responding to 105 incidents during the year," Stoughton said. "During these search and rescue operations SMSR provided assistance to 123 individuals lost or injured in the mountains."

Team members logged more than 5,100 hours on 2012 incidents, Stoughton said. They also logged significant hours on more than 25 preventive search and rescue events where they discussed wilderness safety and preparedness with scout groups, schools, and other community groups.

The Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team was founded in 1951. Members respond to calls for help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and they do not charge for services. For more information visit www.smsr.org.

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