SAR rescue backpacker in Cottonwood Canyon

SAR rescue backpacker in Cottonwood CanyonDEATH VALLEY – On the evening of Feb. 6, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received report of a satellite SOS activation in the vicinity of Cottonwood Canyon, Death Valley National Park.

A backpacker on a multi-day trip fell while descending into a side canyon west of the main canyon, suffering a severe lower extremity injury.

Hikers in the canyon below made audible contact with the injured subject above them and used a satellite device to call for help.

Though unable to ascend the difficult terrain and assist the injured hiker, the reporting party made camp and spent the night in order to assist via satellite communication with Death Valley National Park Rangers.

Members of Inyo County Search and Rescue met both CHP Inland Division Air Operation flight crew and Death Valley rangers at Stovepipe Wells around 8:30 a.m. Feb. 7, when they established plans and pre-flight checks in preparation for an immediate rescue hoist.

A member of Inyo County SAR was entered the slot canyon via helicopter at 9:30 a.m.

CHP helicopter H-82 located a nearby landing zone while the injured hiker was quickly splinted and prepared for hoist.

The patient was then taken to nearby emergency care.

According to Ranger Kevin Ross, Death Valley National Park’s emergency services coordinator, good planning by both the injured man and the party that found him helped him survive.

Both groups had filled out backcountry camping permits, which provided emergency contact information and planned routes to the park.

Backcountry permits are free in Death Valley National Park.

The injured man was prepared to spend the night out, and had a sleeping bag. He had brightly colored equipment with him, including an orange hat and an orange sleeping bag.

That made it much easier to see him in the narrow canyon from the helicopter.

Ranger Ross also said that the two-way communications, possible because of the satellite emergency notification device the other hikers had, were invaluable.

Cell phones don’t work in most of the park. Park rangers recommend that, in addition to carrying a satellite communication device, anyone hiking or driving to remote parts of the park should tell someone back home what their plans are. That way, if they don’t return on time, the contact person can notify park rangers.

Pictured: A park ranger, whose boot tip is visible at the bottom of the frame, peers down one of the crevices in Cottonwood Canyon, where difficult terrain and limited cell service make a dangerous place for hikers. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2020-02-14