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Hunter rescued from harrowing cliffside night

Santa Clarita Valley Search and Rescue team plucks man from gorge above Castaic

Posted: November 12, 2012 6:34 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2012 6:34 p.m.

The Search and Rescue team is pictured at the scene after they saved a 57-year-old hiker who was stuck on the side of a cliff for more than five hours.

Search and Rescue team members hiked more than a mile and a half in darkness, then crossed chest-deep fast-moving water to find and pluck an experienced hunter stranded on a cliff side, a local sheriff’s deputy said Monday.

For more than five hours, as temperatures plummeted and all light disappeared, a 53-year-old hunter and hiker waited trapped on a cliff in the Pyramid Gorge on Sunday night, said Deputy Josh Dubin of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m., the harrowing rescue concluded with one grateful hunter, he said.

“This guy was just extremely grateful but he wasn’t hurt,” Dubin said.

About 5 p.m. Sunday, deputies received word of a hunter unable to get out of the Frenchman’s Flats area in hills north of Castaic.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team was pressed into action.

All its members knew was that the hunter had been crossing the north ridge above a creek when he changed course and attempted to down-climb from a ridge into the creek, Dubin said.

He wanted to cross the creek and end up back on the south side of a trail.

“He was very well prepared, hiking gear, reflective tape, but this spot he was in would not have been good to spend the night there,” the deputy said.

“He was legitimately stuck. He was hanging off the side of the cliff,” said Dubin, who spoke to rescuers after the man was pulled to safety.

When the rescue crew arrived at the gorge, they had to cross fast-moving water.

“They told me the water was chest-deep and fast-moving. They had to use ropes to get across,” Dubin said.

“Then they had to hike a mile and a half just to get to where he was.”

At 5:51 p.m., the Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatched a helicopter to the area to help in the search, said a department spokesman.

Once the chopper was in place, the pilots kept it in place shining a powerful light on the man, making him visible to rescuers, Dubin said.

“When this guy slipped and had fallen to this ledge, it was already too dark for him to get his footing,” Dubin said.

As darkness approached, the hunter had reached a vertical section just above the creek and could not go down any further.

Given the darkness, the hunter did not want to risk the steep upward climb to get back onto the ridge.

“The helicopter kept shining a light on the man as they worked,” Dubin said.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter was able to locate the hunter on steep terrain and in a tight space between the canyons, which made it impossible for an airlift rescue.

After an hour and a half hike, which included steep terrain and the use of safety ropes for passage, the Search and Rescue team finally reached a spot adjacent to the hunter.

Team members could see the hunter across the river and up 40 feet of steep to vertical slope.

The team was able to secure the hunter with a safety rope and lower him to a river bank.

The hunter was then secured in a harness, attached to the safety line, and guided across the river.

Team members followed returning along the south bank to a mobile command post they had set up.

“The rescued hunter ended up hiking out with his rescuers,” Dubin said.



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