Three Hikers Rescued from Cliff

Source: Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office

Three Hikers Rescued from Cliff above Santa Barbara SAR Mountain Rescue Team uses technical expertise to save trio.

Santa Barbara-The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office has released details of a weekend incident in which the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Team rescued three hikers who were stranded on a cliff below Cathedral Peak.

At approximately 12:00pm on Saturday, January 8, 2011, three college students from UC Santa Barbara departed from the top of Tunnel Road to hike up a technically difficult trail to Cathedral Peak located below La Cumbre Peak. After the three males reached Cathedral Peak sometime after 3 pm, they turned around and started to hike back down the mountain. Due to the heavy fog in the area, the hikers missed a critical turn and wandered off the trail down towards Inspiration Point, requiring them to climb down vertical cliffs.

At one point, the hikers slid down a 50-foot chute between the cliffs and discovered they could proceed no further due to the drop off below them and lack of light as the sun had set below the horizon. Fortunately, the hikers had cellular reception and were able to dialed 9-1-1 to contact the Santa Barbara County Emergency Dispatch Center, which then paged out the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's all volunteer Search and Rescue Team's Mountain Rescue Unit.

A dozen members of the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Team responded to the area to locate where the hikers were stranded. By using the GPS coordinates from their cell phone, the SBCSAR incident leader was able to plot their general location and SAR teams were deployed into the area to locate and access the hikers.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Copter 2 was also deployed to aid in the search. With their night vision equipment, they were able to see the glow from the cell phone to pinpoint where the hikers were and help direct the ground SAR units cross country up the recently burned mountains. Unfortunately, fog started to develop in the area requiring Copter 2 to discontinue any further assistance and return to its Santa Ynez Airport base. The fog and steepness of the cliffs also prevented any other helicopter hoist possibilities during the night's operation.

After five hours of climbing up steep mountains and cliffs, a three member SAR team was able to traverse along a cliff ledge to approximately 50-feet below the stranded hikers. One of the SAR members then climbed a 5.8 rated section (Yosemite Decimal System climber.org/data/decimal) up the small ledge where the hikers were. The hikers were then provided food, water and clothing to help warm them in the 40-degree night air.

SAR members then set up rope anchors and rigged improvised harnesses to lower each of the three hikers down the cliff in an operation that took close to an 1 1/2 hours to accomplish given the difficult conditions. The hikers were then helped down the mountain and back to their car on Tunnel Road following the 12-hour ordeal.

SBCSAR Team President Jennifer Beyer praised both the hikers and SAR team members for the positive outcome of this incident. Beyer noted the hikers made a wise choice in not attempting to climb down any further. If they had, they could have been critically injured given the drop offs below them. Beyer also praised her fellow team members for having the skills to accomplish this extremely difficult rescue. "As a mountain rescue team, this is what we trained for and can provide to the citizens of our community that no other organization can," said Beyer.

For further information on this call please contact SBCSAR's PIO Nelson Trichler at 805-698-0752. Additional information about the all volunteer and non-profit SBCSAR team can be found at www.sbcsar.org

Picture 1 - SBCSAR rescue team member Nelson Trichler starting a 5.8 climb up to the three stranded hikers.

Picture 2 - SBCSAR rescue team member Nelson Trichler rappelling down the cliff after lowering the three stranded hikers.


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