By Mary O’KEEFE
While many were enjoying Christmas day, two women took off on a hike that would eventually have them climbing six peaks in the Angeles National Forest and ending with an unscheduled meeting with members of the Montrose Search and Rescue team.
“The women were able to get into an area of cell service to contact 911,” said Steve Goldsworthy, MSR member.
The service was spotty, but it did allow the team to pinpoint a location near CCC Ridge Road in the Angeles National Forest that ended up being very close to where the women were found. The initial call went out around 6:24 p.m. on Dec. 25.
There were two trailheads at the location; one entrance was near the hikers’ parked vehicle and the other was closer to where the 911 call seemed to have originated. The team split with two members heading up one trail and two members hiking the other.
“The women had planned a full day of hiking with six peaks, and they actually climbed six mountain tops and began climbing down,” Goldsworthy said.
They got near the Lower Dark Canyon area and true to its name it was dark. The hikers had a map that indicated there was a fire road nearby so they attempted to climb to that area. The problem, they found, was the road was no longer there, Goldsworthy added. The trails within Angeles National Forest have changed due to the Station Fire, the following floods and the changing weather.
“Basically the road doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “The hikers scrambled up a cliff face thinking they would reach the fire road and got up about 500 feet and met with a vertical cliff.”
The hikers were safe where they were but with the terrain and darkness, they were stuck. They had jackets but had not planned on spending the night, which was cold and windy.
The MSR team began hiking in and calling out to the women.
“Robert Sheedy and I started down [what used to be] the old fire road and into Dark Canyon. We were hollering down into the canyon and we got a response back,” Goldsworthy said. “The best thing for a rescuer to hear is a voice yelling back to you.”
The “discouraging part” was that due to where the hikers were perched on the cliff, MSR members had to go down the trail away from the women to get to the bottom of the canyon to be in position to get to the cliff they were on.
“It was about a three hour hike to get to the bottom of where they were … then crawl up to them,” he said.
The team climbed up to the hikers and they rappelled down using a human anchor – Goldsworthy – to tether the rope to.
The hikers and MSR hiked out of Dark Canyon and back to their vehicles at about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Goldsworthy advises those who hike to stay on the trails, keep cellphones off until needed and hike with a partner. And to fill out a hiking form created by the L.A. Sheriffs Dept. The form will have vital information that will help search and rescue teams if and when help is needed. Copies are available for download at www.cvweekly.com. Enter hike plan in the search bar at the top of the web page.
For those who would like to be part of this team that is ready 24/7 to help others, MSR is holding a recruitment meeting on Jan. 27 at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, 4554 Briggs Ave. at 7 p.m. For more information on the requirements for MSR members go to http://www.crescentavalleyweekly.com/news/10/22/2015/70696/ or scan the QR code with your Smart Phone.