- Sep 15, 2003
- Reaction score
...Apparently SARs knew they were in the shelter. Probably no outrage in Cal. on this one. If an outer-stater did this in NH....
SAR knew they were in the shelter as one of the hikers had sent a text msg via cell phone to family who in turn relayed it to SAR. Apparently SAR had them texted with the combo to the lock on the door where emergency supplies are kept.
In California, SAR is under the jurisdiction of the local county sheriff who coordinates the efforts with various SAR units in the area, including staff from the USFS and USPS as appropriate. In this case, the Mt Whitney Trail starts in US Forest Service jurisdiction, but at Trail Crest, about 2.1 miles from the summit, it enters the US Park Service jurisdiction. Typically, counties own at least one helicopter which is used mostly for crime and fire control duties, but it's not unusual to request assistance from National Guard units as well, as was done in this instance. Using helicopters for law enforcement, fire control and SAR is routine in California, and calls for charging victims is rare. Keep in the mind the physical scale of the state. For example - Inyo County, where Whitney is located - is by itself the size of New Hampshire.
From what I read, most SAR units in California are vocal in their opposition to charging for rescues & recoveries, on the basis that charging for such is poor public policy.
Finally - to give you an idea of what the weather is frequently like on the California 14-ers - here's a clip of today's forecast from Howard Sheckter, who's based in Mammoth, just north of Whitney. It's usually not this windy on the peaks, but it's not an uncommon forecast when there are strong storms, as is the case now for the next day or so.
HIGH WIND WARNING THROUGH TONIGHT FOR GUSTS TO 80 MPH ALONG THE EASTERN SLOPES AND 145MPH OVER THE CREST LATER TODAY.