Friday morning I woke up ready for a day off from work and a long drive. The mountain rescue team was heading up to Lone Pine to do our annual reaccreditation and this years test was on technical rock. I was particularly excited about this trip as I had been studying and practicing the skills and was ready to put them to use.
I met up with some friends in North Park and packed our rescue gear and snowboards into the back of a pickup truck. At around 11:30am we departed San Diego for our long haul to Lone Pine. The weather report earlier in the week suggested rain for the weekend and I was not too happy about having to do the test in the rain. Around the Cajon Pass we encountered our first rain and I was dreading the nastiness we were about to get into. By 5pm we made it into Lone Pine and met up at a hotel where we reserved two rooms. To my surprise we had mostly clear skies and the weather report seemed to be improving. After gathering everyone together we headed over to the Lone Pine Smokehouse to grab dinner. Apparently the locals did not know a bunch of rescue teams were coming to town en masse and slowly the restaurant ran out of food. After eating we returned to the hotel to organize gear and prepare for the next day.
Saturday we all woke early and prepared ourselves and our gear. By 7am we were on the road to Alabama Hills and by 8am the team was waiting at the staging area. After a brief welcome the teams were given their assignments. SDMRT headed off to our little area and quickly organized gear and teams. Within a few minutes command had sent off the hasty team of four people and I was assigned to rigging team one to follow behind them. After a quick hike our subject was located. The hasty team reported that we needed to lift the patient out of the rocks to our working area and then lower him to the ground. Everyone started working quickly and efficiently. I helped set up anchors and helped rig the MPDs for the raise and ultimate lower. While we were doing this, the litter team brought in the litter and the medic assessed the patients injuries. Eventually the patient was packaged and we lifted him to our position. In that time rigging team two on the ground had set up a ground anchor and we had run a guiding line from our top position to the ground anchor. We quickly transferred the systems to new anchors and began lowering the medic and patient via the guiding line. It took us around two and a half hours to get the patient to the ground and shortly after we started to break down our systems having passed the test. Everyone worked really well together and it went super smooth. After a debrief by the evaluator we gathered our gear and left Alabama Hills to grab a beer in town.
We all met up at Jake’s Saloon – a place I definitely want to go back to. It is a fun bar and has local Mammoth beer on tap. After another team debrief and a beer a few of us were ready to cruise up to Mammoth for some skiing. As we drove north the snow level became lower and lower eventually reaching the road. By the time my friend and I reached Mammoth it was snowing out and I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t quite realize how much I missed the snow while living in SD. We made our way to our rented house and continued relaxing.
Sunday morning we woke up early and had an awesome egg and bacon breakfast before hitting the slopes. We hoped to get to the resort early-ish to beat the crowds. Unfortunately the day prior there was a very large avalanche in the resort and they closed at 10am. This led them to issue 11,000 vouchers for a free day of skiing. As we arrived at the resort we immediately battled crowds. The line to obtain a ski pass was over an hour long…
Eventually we all got our passes and skied the whole day. It had been snowing all weekend and in some areas I was up to my waist in fresh powder. All of this powder made for some hilarious falls. On a few occasions I hit a powder drift too fast and cartwheeled headfirst down the mountain. I couldn’t have asked for a better skiing day. Other than the insane number of people trying to ski, the conditions were amazing. All of the trees and surrounding vegetation were completely covered in snow. Around 4pm I returned my skis and we made our way back home extremely tired. After driving for many hours I finally arrived back home at 1:30am dreading going to work in a few short hours. After spending the weekend up north I really wanted to get back there and started planning a winter hike in the Sierras for the next weekend.