Two hikers were climbing the north ridge of Mount Conness in California on Sunday when their ears perked up: Someone was screaming for help.
But neither hiker was sure exactly where the cries were coming from, according to the Mono County Sheriff’s Office. They called authorities at 1:30 p.m. to report what they were hearing, and to give an approximate location.
The hikers estimated the shouts were coming from ½ to ¾ of a mile away, and sent their GPS location and photos to help demonstrate where the person screaming might be. They also reported seeing two other hikers scrambling near where the screams had come from. Those hikers were waving something red.
The hikers talking to the sheriff’s office tried shouting to the hikers closer to the initial shouts, but it was too far. All they could make out was the word “help,” according to the sheriff’s office.
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The shouts were coming from an injured hiker who was trapped near the base of Conness Glacier, at about 11,400-feet elevation, deputies said. Another climber — a person on the east side of Mount Conness — also called dispatchers to report the incident.
Meanwhile, a 12-member search and rescue team began preparing at the Saddlebag Lake trailhead, hoping to hike up to the location and rescue the climber.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter was requested to help from the skies, but after the chopper took off it had to turn back because of dense smoke in the air from the Ferguson Fire, the Record-Courier reports. Instead, a National Guard Blackhawk — which had been on a fire assignment near Yosemite — was called in, the sheriff’s office said.
Three hours later, the search and rescue team spoke to two more hikers. It turned out they were the pair who had been waving something red closer to the source of the cries, the sheriff’s office said.
Those hikers led rescuers right to the source of the screams: A solo climber, who had been scrambling through a field of loose rocks when the slab right beneath him suddenly came loose. It left his leg pinned between two large granite boulders, according to the sheriff’s office.
The solo climber had screamed until those two hikers heard and found him. They provided basic first aid to stanch his bleeding until rescuers arrived. They also reassured him for several hours that help was on the way, the solo climber told his rescuers.
Once the rescue teams arrivedand began medical treatment, they confronted a gargantuan problem: How to move the 4,000-pound granite boulder off the climber’s leg. The slab was five-feet by five-feet, and one-foot thick, rescuers estimated.
The teams created rope systems to move it. Then, using only manpower and their ropes, the rescuers freed the hiker from the slab. All the while, they used other boulders as anchors to keep the rock from hurting the man even more while they hoisted the rock, deputies said.
The National Guard helicopter couldn’t land at the site because of the winds, terrain and altitude, so the helicopter lowered its paramedic to provide advanced care.
Once he’d been freed, the injured hiker was taken to a snowfield where the helicopter picked him up, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office thanked the National Guard and other agencies for helping. They also thanked the other climbers who alerted authorities and provided first aid at the scene.
“It is amazing and truly humbling what perfect strangers are willing to do for others in their time of need,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
The injured climber was taken to Reno for medical care, the Record-Courier reports.