Mt. Baldy Snow Climb and Glissading Accident
At the summit View from Baldy summit
This was a Sierra Peaks Section snow climb of the Baldy Bowl. We left Manker Flat at 7am and hoofed it up the Ski Hut Trail. When we got to the ski hut we noticed some commotion and a ranger informed us that a climber had fallen down some portion of the bowl and broken a leg and suffered contusions. Rescue personnel had already gotten to him, stabilized him, and placed some protection between him and the snow he was sitting in while waiting for extraction. From the hut area, we could see the injured party sitting and waiting.
We put on our crampons a little past the hut and headed up. As we climbed, we kept our eyes on the scene below of the pending rescue. It was approaching two hours since we first saw the fallen climber when the helicopter appeared. Watching the chopper gingerly maneuvering above the rescue site made one appreciate that sending a machine like that into mountain terrain is no routine walk-in-the-park. It was impressive watching that whirly-bird hover in one place and hoist the injured party into its belly. Job well done!
But it seems that this unlucky victim of the Baldy Bowl was a precursor of things to come. For it was exactly one week later that mountaineer /mountain guide author RJ Secor took his horrible fall down the Bowl after starting a glissade. Secor apparently ended up near the ski hut just as today's victim had.
After the rescue, we continued up. The chute we went up didn't seem particularly steep, but it gave us a good work-out nevetheless. We summitted at 12:35 pm and enjoyed the views for a bit. Above is a picture of two of our party arriving at the summit and one summit view photo. On the descent, we picked out a route where we could enjoy some safe glissading. We were back at Manker Flat before 3:30 and so everyone was able to get back down to sea level before dinnertime.
Post Script: The Victim's Report
Rescue helicopter (center) hovering over victim Victim of glissading accident waiting for helicopter evacuation
Recently, an SP member who read this report recognized himself as the victim in the accident. He was lucky. In the first place, just as he came to rest at the bottom of the bowl, a ranger happened to be hiking in his direction and was able to stabilize him and initiate rescue operations.
The victim said that his helmet saved him from head injury because he tumbled through a lot of rock. His injured leg required a metal fitting and his belly was cut up and bruised by the rock and ice he slid over when his jacket pulled up in the fall. But he said he did Baldy again two months later -- on the trail this time. Above is a picture of him sitting in the snow waiting for rescue and one of the chopper (very middle of pic) hovering over the rescue site.