2 Hikers and Their Rescuers Spent 3-Days in California Wilderness Trapped by Winter Storm

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The hikers and their rescuers spent 3-days in the California wilderness. Credit: Yucaipa Police Department

On Saturday, November 5, 2022, two hikers, Christine Ockenden and George Teachman, set out on a planned multiday backpacking trip in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. On Monday afternoon, November 7, 2022, they became disoriented due to an approaching storm and left the trail into a steep canyon. While descending the canyon, Ockenden injured her foot, and they could not continue. They set up their tent and used Teachman’s In-Reach Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to report their emergency.  At about 3:18 p.m., Sheriff’s Dispatch received notification of the emergency and the subject’s location information from the PLB service provider.

The San Gorgonio Search & Rescue Team (San G SAR) was activated at about 5:50 pm, and a hasty team composed of qualified alpine rescue personnel was deployed to try to reach the subjects. Because of the treacherous terrain, rain storm, and near-freezing temperatures, the first team did not reach the victims until 11:36 pm. They assessed the condition of the victims and began evaluating the area to determine how the subjects could be extracted from the canyon. Two more hasty teams had been deployed at 6:52 pm and 7:18 pm but were unable to reach the victims due to the increasing storm severity and extreme conditions. A Sheriff’s helicopter was requested to evaluate the situation for a hoist rescue, but they also were unable to reach the area due to the storm.

Credit: Yucaipa Police Department

The storm continued and plans were made to shelter the victims in place until the weather improved and rescue was possible. Additional alpine rescue personnel were requested from other San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Teams as well as Riverside County Sheriff’s Riverside Moutain Rescue Unit (RMRU).

On Tuesday, November 8, 2022, the storm still continued changing from freezing rain to snow on the mountain. 

The storm began to subside the morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2022, and Sheriff’s helicopters made multiple attempts to reach the victims but were unable to due to the remaining cloud cover. Additional personnel were requested from across southern California, and more than 25 alpine rescue personnel responded from San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Teams.

The remaining cloud cover broke overnight, and at about 6:30 am on Thursday, November 10, 2022, a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Rescue Helicopter reached the area. They conducted numerous separate hoist operations to rescue the victims and extract the three RMRU members who spent the last 30 hours of the storm with the victims. The last of the rescuers were off the mountain at 10:06 am.

San Gorgonio Wilderness, california,
San Gorgonio Wilderness, California.

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