Jun 30, 2011
Jun 21, 2011
Woman describes harrowing rescue from icy tunnel
Passersby rescue hiker who plunged through snowpack into icy waters in Sequoia National Park. Recovering from frostbite, she says she feels 'very, very lucky to be alive.'
June 21, 2011
FOR THE RECORD An article in the June 21 LATExtra about hiker Marcia Rasmussen identified Ed Patrovsky as a longtime friend of Rasmussen. He is a longtime friend of Rasmussen's husband.
Temperatures were rising toward 80 degrees when Rasmussen left the Farewell Gap trailhead on Wednesday for a day hike to train for an ultra-marathon. She assessed the snowpack and crossed the bridge without incident, but by the time she came back, the 4-foot-thick foundation had weakened. It cracked open, dropping her the into fast flowing, freezing currents below.
"There was no warning," she said. "One second I'm walking on top of snow, then I'm in the water. There was no warning."
Rasmussen trained wilderness search-and-rescue teams in Virginia for 30 years. So she didn't panic as she fell through the 4-foot-thick snow bridge. "It was like being flushed down a toilet," Rasmussen said.
Dragged by the current along the narrow, icy tunnel, she tumbled down a waterfall before finding branches to stop herself. She told herself not to panic. "You don't have time to think," she said. "My only thought was: get out of the water. It's a very fast way to die. There is no swimming in water that cold."
She pulled herself out of the water into a small alcove. But she was still stuck beneath several feet of hardened snowpack, wearing only nylon jogging clothes.
Rasmussen looked for telltale light blue patches in the snow, a sign that it was thin enough to let light through, and began clawing at what turned out to be 2 feet of frozen snow.
"I used to do search and rescue, so the whole time I'm digging, I know what I'm up against," Rasmussen said. "I know how people die in the snow, but there wasn't much I could do."
Spiritual but not religious, Rasmussen said she prayed and "talked to myself a lot, telling myself I had to be smart and think through my options, telling myself to keep digging."
About the time her freezing arms were beginning to give out, she threw her hydration pack out of the hole, which was about 6 inches in diameter. "I hadn't seen anybody on this trail all day, but there's always hope," she said. "And that's exactly what happened."
Stefan Barycki, 26, a photographer from Visalia, noticed the backpack. Barycki said he wasn't alarmed when he examined the pack, thinking that someone had left it behind. When he saw the hole and peered down, he spotted Rasmussen looking back at him.
"It freaked me out someone was down there," Barycki said. "I could see her mouth saying 'Help,' but she couldn't speak and was shaking like crazy."
Barycki screamed for his friend to come over and they enlarged the hole. They hoisted her out, took off their shirts, and wrapped them around her. Rasmussen was incoherent and suffering fromhypothermia. She said she remembers very little of the rescue.
After feeding her PowerBars, Barycki left to get water out of his pack on the other side of the snow bridge, when it collapsed under him. He scrambled out, but was shaken and cautious, and remained on the other side, monitoring Rasmussen from a short distance.
By chance, Ed Patrovsky, a retired park ranger and longtime friend of Rasmussen, walked by on her side of the creek, and gave her his sleeping bag and more clothing. The men waited for about two hours until the park's helicopter arrived, as well as a medic and ranger on foot.
Rasmussen says she was able to walk away and didn't need the park's medical assistance or evacuation. She left the park around nightfall, went to pick up her husband from work, which is a 2 1/2-hour drive, came home and slept.
"I am strong and determined," Rasmussen said. "I do well in the outdoors and in extreme situations. I didn't know till the last second if I was going to make it, but I didn't let myself dwell on those thoughts.
"I will be back up there as soon as I can run again," she said.
Jun 15, 2011
“I am always doing things I can’t do. That is how I get to do them.”
~ Pablo Picasso ~
Steve and his friends frequently go hiking in the Mineral King area of the Sequoia National Park, not far from our home in Visalia, cameras and backpacks in hand. This area has just recently opened because of snow. Only Wednesdays trip turned into more than they had expected. While headed back to the car for supplies, Steve noticed a backpack on a mound of snow. After investigating area he finds a a lady had fallen 5 feet through a snow bridge over one of the creeks and into the water. She was trying to dig her way out and had been there for 3 hours. Hypothermia set in causing her to be incoherent. Steve started digging down to her, falling in himself. He and one of his friends were able to get her out while the other headed out on foot to find the rangers. They bundled her up in their clothes and another hiker came by and had a sleeping bag for her. They waited several hours before rescue arrived, only to have her decline any help.
Squaw Valley woman escapes entrapment under snow in creek in Sequoia
written by staff report
A Squaw Valley woman escaped serious injury Tuesday after she fell into a high sierra creek and was trapped for more than three hours under snow in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, according to Dana Dierkes, spokesperson for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
The 52-year-old woman told authorities she had been training for an ultra marathon. At 5:15 p.m. Tuesday the park service initiated a search and rescue for her.
She chose the Farewell Gap trail head for a solo hike Tuesday. She hiked up Farewell Canyon and crossed Franklin Creek on a snow bridge. On her return, the snow bridge collapsed under her.
She fell into Franklin Creek and traveled downstream about 30-40 feet underneath the snow, Dierkes said.
Although she could stand in the creek, she could not reach the surface of the snow. The woman dug a hole in the five feet of snow over her head using her hands.
She threw her backpack out of the hole. Luckily, other hikers spotted the pack and came closer to investigate it. By this time, the woman was incoherent, Dierkes said. She suffered from hypothermia.
One of the hikers went back to the trail head for help. Other hikers remained with her and helped her warm up.
When rangers arrived on the scene, the woman declined evacuation by helicopter and medical treatment. A ranger assisted her to the trail head.
(pictures by Steve and Chris)