Two hikers were rescued by helicopter from the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County on Friday after a spike in temperatures triggered an avalanche in the area, sending a torrent of snow and ice down the mountainside, authorities said.
Rescuers called to the scene captured a second avalanche in a dramatic video that shows a portion of the powerful 90-second slide.
The Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, a volunteer search and rescue team, received a call at 3:30 p.m. from two hikers who were stuck at 7,000-feet elevation on the north face of the mountain along the Snow Creek route. The pair said they were unable to move up or down after being struck by an avalanche and losing their equipment.
Mountain snow deposited by a series of early April storms rapidly melted during a heat wave last week that sent temperatures soaring into the triple digits. As the snowpack loosened, multiple avalanches rushed down in a river of ice.
“It was over 100 degrees on the desert floor, and with the recent heavy snowstorm that occurred in early April, loose wet avalanches and rockfall were of primary concern,” Tyler Shumway, a member of the rescue team, wrote in a post on the unit’s website.
A Riverside County sheriff’s helicopter crew flew the rescue team to a rock outcropping about 50 yards below the hikers.
One hiker was loaded onto the helicopter and transported to safety, while Shumway stayed with the second hiker. During their wait, another avalanche sent snow cascading down the trail in what looked like a rushing stream. Video taken by rescuers showed a portion of the powerful 90-second slide.
“It was utterly amazing to witness the raw power of the mountain. Being at 7,000 feet, they were at the worst spot since the entire north face of the mountain was being radiated by the sun and all the couloirs from Kristen Peak and San Jacinto Peak funnel into this chokepoint,” Shumway wrote.
The helicopter returned minutes later and evacuated the second hiker. No one was injured.
Officials urge anyone using the trails to exercise extreme caution as warm temperatures in the region continue to cause snow to melt on the mountain. They suggest hikers wear bright colors, which can help rescuers find them in an emergency, and attempt a route only when it is clear that conditions are safe.