As a continuation from our previous post, the next morning we woke up and hiked up to the base of Mt Wilson. The majority of the route up Mt Wilson is Class 3, with one notable Class 4 move to access the summit block. On our way up the mountain, we noticed a group of 3 climbers ahead of us that were leaving the main route and were crossing a steep snow-filled couloir. We re-checked our map to make sure we weren’t supposed to ascend the same way they were. We weren’t – our route had no snow and made it’s way up to the ridge instead of directly for the summit. We didn’t think much of it; sometimes people do a variety of different routes for different reasons. James and I summited Mt Wilson and then descended about 1000 ft. The whole time the group of 3 seemed like they hadn’t moved far from where we had first spotted them. Then out of nowhere we heard yelling coming from where they were located. We looked up to find one of the climbers sliding out of control down the steep 1000 ft snow-filled couloir. He was trying to stop himself but he was picking up so much speed that he ended up tumbling head over heels the 1000 ft to the bottom where the snow stopped and the rocks started. The whole time he’s falling, I’m realizing that I am probably witnessing this guy’s death. At the speed he’s going, he will hit the rocks and that will be it. When he finally stopped, we couldn’t see him. Where the snow met the rocks, there was a small ridge blocking our view. James told me he was going to run over there to check on him and I yelled at him to get his phone out to see if he had service to he could call the rescue team. Before James could get there, we yelled to ask if the guy was okay. Surprisingly he yelled back that he was okay – no broken bones, just a little bloody. Nothing short of a miracle. Extremely shaken from witnessing the fall, we were more careful than ever descending the next 500 ft. Every rock seemed like a potential hazard. About 15-20 minutes later, we hear a helicopter coming towards us from the valley below. It turned out to be a rescue helicopter. He hovered over the spot where we could still see the same climbers and brought one of them to the basin just below where we were hiking. It looked like a woman with her arm in a sling. As it turns out, even before the fall, the woman from the same party had possibly broken her arm . In an attempt to be in a better position for the rescue, the group of 3 re-crossed the snow couloir at which time a guy from the group fell the 1000- ft. These people must have had the worst day in their lives. Luckily, everyone was okay with the exception of the arm injury. This made us realize that there are true dangers to climbing these mountains and we need to do everything we can to make sure we are climbing as safely as possible.
We had our video camera accessible and were able to film some of the daring helicopter rescue. That must require some mad helicopter-flying skills to get this close to the mountain at 13,000 ft!
If you are considering climbing a mountain, make sure you are prepared and you understand what you are getting yourself into. Some accidents just happen and can’t be prevented. However, the majority of accidents can be prevented. Here is a link from the 14ers website that explains Mounaineering Safety and what you can do to be prepared: