Unrescued Trekking Poles

General Palm Springs area.

Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby Ed » Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:35 pm

Today I had to make a 911 call from Skyline for a hiker that needed to be rescued, and was hoisted off with him. But they would not allow us to take our trekking poles. Too awkward for chopper entry, I guess. So if you see two pairs of trekking poles lying by the trail a little below the Florian's Water Cache location, that is why they are there.
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby cynthia23 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:34 am

Good heavens, Ed! :shock: What a trail angel you are! Are you okay? Must have been a highly not-fun day! But how fortunate for the person who you ran into. Bless you.

As for your poles, is anyone going up in the near future? I am guessing Ed is not going to feel like popping up to retrieve them for at least a few days.

Thanks for your good deed, Ed.
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby CatB » Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:51 pm

Hello Ed!
Dennis & I were on Skyline this morning & we were able to rescue your trekking poles, & those of the person who was rescued. We turned them in at the upper tram station with the info you provided in your post. They will be at the lower tram station Lost & Found whenever you can retrieve them.
-CatB
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby Ed » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:05 pm

CatB,

Wonderful! Thank you very much! I was thinking of going up Wednesday to look for them, but have a sore throat and a hacking cough.
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby Ed » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:38 am

Since I am a great admirer of Ellen's rescue reports, here is mine.

I met Ward two weeks earlier, when he was doing his first Skyline. He found it tough, but no special problems, nothing alarming. He started from Ramon Road about when I started from the museum. We hiked together from a little above Rescue Box 2 to the tram. His speed was not bad by my standards. He is 61, and had not done much hiking, the Lykken Trails and Skyline up to 4700'.

He wanted to join me on Saturday, which I thought was fine. We set out not expecting any problems. Played tag for a while with three muscular young men, very military looking, and certainly first timers, from the way they charged uphill and then took rest breaks at odd spots.

Then Ward began having problems: weakness, dizziness, trouble breathing. They became worse, with a lot of trouble breathing. I encouraged him to exhale forcefully, but it did not seem to do much good. Somewhere between Rescue Box 2 and Florian's (ex-) Water Cache, he was barely moving. We both agreed that he could not make it up to the tram or down to the museum. I made a mental dry run of a bivouac, and rejected it. Like most people on Skyline, Ward did not have what I would consider overnight clothes. Worse, we had no idea what was causing his problems, so it was possible he would be no better in the morning, and even that there was something life-threatening lurking there. So we decided he needed a rescue. I would have much preferred calling from Flat Rock, but even though it was not far away, I had doubts he could make it there in a reasonable amount of time. Decided to call 911 rather than use my SPOT, in order to have a line of communication.

I had problems communicating with the 911 operator, which was not unexpected. It was not her fault, they have training, experience, procedures and check lists which don't match wilderness rescues very well. For example, she kept asking me, over and over again, for the street address or cross-streets for the museum. A lot of back and forth like that. I kept telling her that if I could talk to an SAR person, it would be better, but she said it did not work like that. I explained to her carefully where we were, and I am sure she took notes, but the words meant nothing to her, and I had my doubts about the transmittal of information. Finally, she said she had our coordinates from my cell phone. Since I don't have a smart phone with a GPS chip, I wondered how good they would be, but at some point we had to sign off and start the search, which we did.

To our amazement, a helicopter appeared in the sky about 15 minutes later. Began looping over Flat Rock and then looping down, roughly following the trail. A fire chief called from their base of operations, a parking lot at the lower tram station, so I was able to communicate with the helicopter through him, which helped a lot. Finally they located us, but the helicopter flew away. The fire chief said it was not prepared for a rescue, they needed to 'reconfigure', and another one would be back and carry out the rescue.

At that point, I decided to finish the hike. There was just about enough time to reach the tram before dark, and I had no assurance SAR would be taking me out. There was nothing I could do for Ward, and he seemed fine sitting and resting. With his permision, I took off. As I was approaching Flat Rock, my cell phone rang. It was a woman from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. When she found out what I was doing, she was horrified. I was a very, very bad boy for leaving Ward, she ordered me to return, and assured me I would be choppered out. I was not sure she had the authority to promise that, but there was no mistaking her attitude and preferences. So I meekly followed orders and turned around.

Not long after I arrived back, another helicopter appeared in the sky. This one was supposed to have our coordinates from the first one, but it had much more difficulty finding us. Spent a lot of time far away, on the other side of Flat Rock and at tram station altitude. The fire chief called again, and we talked it down to us, with some difficulty.

I don't know a thing about flying, but I was impressed by how it maneuvered into position, on the side of a steep ridge. I had a brother-in-law who was a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and I remembered he and his friends telling me that helicopters were complicated and awkward machines, not easy to operate. The hoist went smoothly, and I was also impressed by our rescuers, who were very competent, professional, and matter-of-fact. But I can't say I enjoyed being the subject of a hoist. Below the helicopter everything is dominated by the noise and wind blast from the rotors. If you are ever in that situation, dress for the occasion, it is much colder and windier below the helicopter than a few yards away. You feel like a child, with someone shouting into your ear, and slipping you into a diaper-like harness. When I arrived at the helicopter, I was inclined to grab the doorway and stand on the struts, but their hand signals, shouts, and head shakes suggested they wanted me to remain passive until they had me in position to sit in the doorway.

They took us down to the parking lot at the lower tram station, where the paramedics whisked me into a van and started asking me questions. Then realized they had the wrong person and switched me for Ward. The diagnosis they gave him was that he was dehydrated and needed electrolytes. We both doubted that he was dehydrated, he had a CamelBak pack, plenty of water, and it was not a hot day. I suspect they are under some pressure to come up with something specific for their report.

This is the second time I have been on Skyline with someone in trouble, and it is an unsettling and disturbing experience. The first time I ran into someone who is well known to many people on this discussion board, has done Skyline scores of times, and led many groups up. But this day he had a real witch's brew of symptoms: weakness, dizziness, nausea, severe muscle cramps, and jaw pain. I don't know how it could be much worse without food poisoning or high altitude sickness. And even a medical ignoramus like myself knows that jaw pain is a scary symptom. We made it to Flat Rock, sat down, and had a serious discussion. He was inclined to descend, but I was very opposed. It was a 90 degree day in Palm Springs, I thought we could handle that, but I could not see descending from Flat Rock to the museum in a dizzy state. Too great a chance of a fall, which could be harmless, but could also result in a fracture or head injury. I was in favor of calling for rescue, and doing it there at Flat Rock, not higher up where it could be more difficult. But after about 20 minutes of discussion and rest, he decided he wanted to try to finish the hike, so up we went. Miraculously, he improved greatly, and we actually had a fairly good time the rest of the way. The next week he talked to his doctor, and they agreed that it was a recent change of medication.

In Ward's case, it is clear in retrospect that he should have turned around much earlier. But we all have the urge to power on through difficulties, and much of the time that turns out ok. I actually think it takes more self-discipline to turn around than continue. Here's to turning around, while you can! An SAR operation is an interesting experience, but I can assure you I don't want to repeat it. And it takes a lot of public-sector resources to correct our private mistakes.
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby RichardK » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:39 am

I had problems communicating with the 911 operator, which was not unexpected. It was not her fault, they have training, experience, procedures and check lists which don't match wilderness rescues very well. For example, she kept asking me, over and over again, for the street address or cross-streets for the museum.


The subject of who to call for back country rescue has come up on various boards. There is some agreement that the county sheriff should be the first call if possible. I have read that, under California law, only the sheriff can call out SAR. 911 operators are oriented to sending police, fire, and paramedics to street addresses.

Thank you for your very informative report.
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby guest » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:39 am

Thanks for this Ed, (shat happens) as they say!

Frustrating to have difficulty getting your info over to 911. Might be good for all agencies in our area to have a topo-type map on the trail for reference, (although I doubt the 911 folks would be able to use it with the time they have?). Good thing you had the fire cptn. below who seems to know more about the trail.

Whenever I take folks up Skyline, I tell them I have the right to turn them around at 3,500 ft. (a bit past The Shady Slope, which works them a bit up that climb). I've done it a few times, the folks were ok with the decision, and most knew it either wasn't a good day for them, or they were under-trained. It's easier for me than many of you guys, since it's usually not friends I take up. It's hard to determine how some folks will do, even 2/3rds the way up, where I've had a few folks come undone as well, like Ed had with his friend. At that point on the trail, it's tough to get a person in trouble, up or down, which is a main reason so many rescues happen on Skyline.

I know about not stepping on the skid! It can unbalance the chopper, (even if your on a hoist), but it's what we want to do intuitively. The guys have to treat you a bit like kids, as there's no voice command option, and many folks are in sensory overload around all the wind, noise, excitement, and can easily do the wrong thing, which can lead to something bad very quick, (you know all of this I'm sure), just safety protocol.

Glad it worked out for you. I would have done what you did as well re. heading up by your self, I Hate just sitting around not knowing what's happening, since you made the assessment that your bud was ok. I know many will disagree with going on without him, but you can still be helpful higher up, since cell coverage works most of the way, (as you noticed when you got called back & reprimanded).

Imagine the situations over the years if there was no cell coverage on this route. Would possibly be regulated by now, if so?
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby Ed » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:20 am

RichardK wrote:The subject of who to call for back country rescue has come up on various boards. There is some agreement that the county sheriff should be the first call if possible. I have read that, under California law, only the sheriff can call out SAR. 911 operators are oriented to sending police, fire, and paramedics to street addresses.


Richard,

Thanks for that information, makes sense to me. But I am not sure how you get through to the county sheriff without calling 911. If anybody knows how to do that, I would like to know.
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby cynthia23 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:34 pm

I would like that info as well. I agree that 911 have a hard time understanding calls from a trail. Years ago, after being stalked by a van in the parking lot of the Desert Museum, I decided to call from the trail and report the unsettling episode in case the van went on to some other woman. They just could not process that I was calling from a trail, or that I had experienced this stalking at a trailhead--she too kept asking for my location.

Thanks for this very detailed discussion of the event, Ed. Speaking for myself, the last four years I have only hiked SKyline to about 5k because I begin experiencing slight dizziness thereafter. Perhaps I could 'power through'--but I don't want to find out that I can't. I think my age is certainly a factor in that-- younger people can get away with less heavy conditioning and power through on willpower. I do think that if older people continue with heavy and ongoing weekly conditioning (i.e. skyline-long hikes) they can continue to hike Skyline safely into old age, but it is a significant commitment of time and energy. Just doing a few short hikes a week is not enough prep, imho. So perhaps this was the issue with your friend. At any rate thank goodness it all worked out and hey, at least you have experienced 'the dangle' ? :wink:
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Re: Unrescued Trekking Poles

Postby Pyrodude » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:01 pm

I too would love to put a number into my phone that I could call instead of 911 should the need arise. Both Palm Springs Mounted Search and Rescue and Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit respond to these events, and I'll be damned if I know who decides which one gets called. I should invest in a SPOT or Delorme, but I hate being tied into those contracts. I don't think the Ranger Station at Long Valley is the one to call----they hate us Skyliners and I'd fear they would give me a scolding. I know some fount of knowledge reading this thread will have a number for us!
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