Inyo County Search and Rescue had a busy weekend, responding to reports of a fallen climber at the Happy Boulders Saturday afternoon, then rescuing two hikers from the Mt. Whitney area after snow stranded them in the backcountry Sunday.
According to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, dispatch received a phone call reporting that a climber had fallen and injured herself at the Happy Boulders near Chalk Bluff Road at about 3 p.m. Saturday. According to the caller, the woman landed on her back and was screaming in pain.
The Inyo County Search and Rescue team responded to the location. The injured climber, Kelli Iddings, 25, of San Francisco, was secured on a wheeled litter and brought out to Chalk Bluff Road where Symons Ambulance Service was waiting.
“While inside the ambulance, Iddings said that she was climbing the Happy Boulders when she missed her grip and fell about 15 feet to the ground, landed on her back and hit her head,” Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Carma Roper said in a press release Monday.
Iddings was transported to Northern Inyo Hospital and was later flown to Renown Hospital in Reno, due to the extent of her injuries.
The following day, at about 10:40 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, the Sheriff’s Department received a call regarding a stranded hiker near Upper Boy Scout Lake, located at the base of Mt. Whitney.
According to Pamela McKeown, her husband, James McKeown, called her in the morning to let her know he was neck-deep in snow and could not get down the mountain. McKeown said James woke up the morning of Friday, Nov. 22 and had to dig his way out of his tent because he had about five feet of snow on him.
McKeown told the Sheriff’s Department that James did not have any food, water, warm clothing or shelter, as he was leaving all of his gear behind in an attempt to get off the mountain. James was supposed to meet his friend David Webb at Iceberg Lake but never arrived.
According to Roper, sheriff’s dispatch also received information that Webb may also be in trouble.
At about 1:20 p.m., CHP helicopter H-40 located McKeown and was able to rescue and transport him to Southern Inyo Hospital to be treated for frost bite, hypothermia, dehydration and exhaustion.
At about 1:40 p.m., the helicopter located Webb and transported him to Southern Inyo Hospital for treatment of frost bite and exhaustion.
Roper said that an interview with the two hikers revealed that Webb went to Iceberg Lake to meet McKeown, as planned. However, after Friday and Saturday’s snow storm hit, Webb said he decided to climb down the mountain to get back to his vehicle. As he was walking down, he was hit by an avalanche and buried up to his neck. Webb said he lost all of his supplies in the avalanche. Once he was able to dig himself out, he got hit by another avalanche. Webb said he was about to give up when the helicopter found him.