By Mary O’KEEFE
On Wednesday a Montrose Search and Rescue team member was injured during a search for a 73-year-old hiker reported missing on Mt. Whitney.
Member Cindy Moyneur England injured her wrist when she slipped on a patchy spot of black ice on her way down Mt. Whitney. She was helicoptered to a local hospital where it was determined that she had damaged the soft tissue of the wrist.
“It was not broken but certainly bruised, swollen and sore,” she said.
Moyneur England was part of a three member team from Montrose Search and Rescue that aided in a search for a missing hiker on Mt. Whitney.
Kenneth Wade Brunette, 73, from Hansville, Wash. was reported missing on Oct. 27 after he failed to return from a day hike up Mt. Whitney in the Sequoia National Park.
“On Oct. 25 he had apparently planned to do a one day summit which is an extremely arduous trail. It is about a 14 hour effort to summit and return,” said Mike Leum, Montrose Search and Rescue team member.
As Brunette, an avid hiker, was attempting to summit on Sunday at about 4 p.m. he came across some hikers who were making their way down the summit.
“The hikers allegedly were concerned about him at the time but he was about a mile and a half from the summit and wanted to continue,” Leum said.
One of the hikers turned and shot a picture of Brunette as he continued his climb.
That was the last time anyone saw him. His body was found by a dog team about 1 p.m. on Oct. 31 on the eastern slope of the mountain.
About 100 emergency and search and rescue personnel from all over California were called to help in the search, said Andrienne Freeman, Sequoia National Park spokeswoman.
Montrose, Sierra Madre and Altadena search and rescue teams were among those that responded.
“We got up there on Wednesday (Oct. 28) night and Thursday morning we received our briefing,” Leum said.
Moyneur England, Leum and a trainee began to set up the base camp. They were carrying heavy packs from 50 to 70 pounds each and began to climb up to the 4,000 foot base camp. The winds were so strong that helicopters could not assist in the camp set up or search. During the hike the trainee began to show signs of acute altitude sickness and could not continue in the search. Crescenta Valley Sheriff Deputy Jeff Martin joined the search.
“Setting up base camp took a good part of Thursday due to the winds,” Leum said.
Freeman said the winds were reported with “sustained gusts at 100 miles per hour and the temperatures were in the single digits.”
The tents had to be secured with spikes and boulders to hold it in place.
“It was a long night. It was bitter cold and the wind was so strong then at around three or four in the morning it all just stopped and the sky was clear,” Moyneur England.
The team had completed it search mission and was on their way down the mountain to meet with other teams. The terrain transitioned from rock to ice and Moyneur England fell.
“I was wearing crampons (footwear attachments for icy conditions) but I just hit a piece of ice. The fall was worse because I was wearing the 50 pound backpack.,” she said.
At the time they were not certain how serious her injuries were but Moyneur England is a physical therapist and knew what to do to secure her wrist.
“I ended up making a split with one of my trekking poles and duck taped it to her arm,” Leum said.
Due to the icy conditions, the team requested a helicopter transport to the nearest hospital.
Moyneur England is not recovering from the fall. Her wrist and arm are still bruised and swollen.
“I am feeling fine. I am just icing my wrist and keeping it elevated. It’s bruised but I think my ego is more bruised than my arm,” she joked.