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Climbers stuck near Mt. Whitney are rescued by helicopter

Four climbers descending Mt. Russell chose the wrong path and called for a rescue Sunday after getting stuck on the side of a cliff.

The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency satellite transmission Sunday afternoon requesting a rescue near Mt. Whitney.

Mt. Russell, with a summit height of 14,088 feet, is about a mile north of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.

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The California Highway Patrol Inland Division Air Operations found the group about 5:30 p.m. and lowered an Inyo County Search and Rescue team member via a 100-foot cable hoist to their position.

The climbers, who got off-route while descending and had no way of getting up or down, were stuck above a narrow gully at about 13,550 feet, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.

The rescue member secured the climbers on the cliff and stayed with the remaining three climbers after hooking one of them to the cable to be lifted into the helicopter.

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A member of the Inyo County Search and Rescue team is lowered down to rescue four climbers who got stuck while descending Mount Russell.
(Courtesy of Inyo County Search and Rescue)

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The helicopter took the first climber to the Lone Pine Airport, then refueled. When the helicopter returned, the rescue team hoisted the other three climbers and dropped them to their camp near Lower Boy Scout Lake. The rescue team member was hoisted into the helicopter about 7:30 p.m. and taken to Lone Pine.

Mt. Russell, one of 15 of California’s 14ers — as in, above 14,000 feet — is usually climbed from May to October, according to SummitPost. It’s recommended that only experienced alpine mountaineers attempt to climb Mt. Russell before May because of snow still left on the route, the site says.

Because of a big winter season, the High Sierra still has a significant amount of snow, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities warn that difficult and potentially life-threatening conditions will probably remain in the Sierra back country throughout the spring and into summer. Climbers and hikers attempting Mt. Whitney and surrounding peaks need to be properly prepared and experienced.


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