One of the climbers, 31 year old Abaline Bushong, had been hiking for about five weeks in an attempt to thru-hike the Siskiyou Peaks Trail before she slid in to the crevasse.
Search and Rescue teams had a busy day last Thursday as they responded to two climbers who needed assistance getting off Mt. Shasta. The separate incidents were reported approximately four hours apart, the first involving a man with a broken leg and the second the rescue of a woman who had fallen into an ice cave.
One of the climbers, 31 year old Abaline Bushong, had been hiking for about five weeks in an attempt to thru-hike the Siskiyou Peaks Trail before she slid in to the crevasse. She would have been the first person to complete the journey with the exception of Aria Zoner, the man who pioneered the route and authored a guidebook about it. Bushong was just 14 miles shy of completing the 448 mile trek.
Many organizations came together to perform the rescues, including Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Deputy and Search and Rescue Coordinator Mike Burns and assistant coordinator Bob Buker, United States Forest Service Lead Climbing Ranger, California Highway Patrol Air Operations’ helicopters, CAL FIRE and a number of volunteers responded to both calls.
The first call came in just before 10 a.m., alerting rescuers that Collins Bakasa, age 21 of Hayward, was unable to descend after he slipped, fell and broke his leg near Avalanche Gulch, at approximately 12,000 feet in elevation.
USFS Lead Climbing Ranger Nick Meyers reached Bakasa and managed to rescue him by transporting him to Lake Helen.
The CHP’s H-14 helicopter crew then responded and successfully airlifted him to Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta for treatment of his injuries.
At approximately 1:45 p.m., Burns responded to Bushong’s call after she slipped and fell into an ice cave at the 12,000 feet level at Casaval Ridge, in vicinity of Whitney Glacier.
Bushong was stuck inside the crevasse and in danger of falling further inside.
Bushong said that she and her hiking partner were glissading down the mountain when suddenly they went flying through the air. Her partner broke her fall before she slid into a hole and ended up on the small ice shelf inside. She said she clung to the ice shelf for about three hours before she was saved.
Zoner said he believes the near-death experience has given Bushong a greater appreciation for life. “She fought tooth and nail for her life,” he said.
The CHP’s H-14 and later, H-16 helicopter crews were instrumental in rescuing Bushong from her predicament, said Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey, and she too was transported to Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta for treatment of minor injuries.
Reflecting on her rescue the day following the incident, Bushong said, “Yesterday was the most intense day of my entire life. I fell 20 to 30 feet into the crevasse and landed on a small shelf surrounded by three ice tunnels. They were black, and if I’d gone down them, I never would have come out. Somehow I had cell service in the crevasse. Everything that happened was a miracle. It’s an experience I will never forget. My appreciation for wilderness is greater than it has ever been. And as for the trail, it was amazing!”
Zoner and Bushong ended up meeting for the first time shortly after her accident and the two were interviewed by a Medford newstation. Zoner said he believes Bushong was fortunate that rescuers were already on the mountain to assist the other hiker, as that likely made her rescue more timely.
Both rescued climbers are doing well and have been released from the hospital.
“This is a good time to reinforce some important safety messages to those visitors or area residents who plan to climb or conduct recreational activities on Mt. Shasta,” said Lopey.
When climbing the mountain, always get the most current information on weather and conditions by checking with the USFS rangers. Stop by the Ranger Station in Mount Shasta, and check the web page www.shastaavalanche.org. You’ll find a wealth of information to help you stay safe, and includes information about permit requirements, weather forecasts, safety tips, and clothing and equipment recommendations for Mount Shasta climbs and other outdoor activities on the mountain.
“Mountain enthusiasts should climb at a level commensurate with their abilities, carry clothing and equipment which will allow them to survive in adverse weather or climbing conditions, and always carry sufficient food and water and a first aid kit,” said Burns. “Flashlights, avalanche beacons, bright clothing, such as orange, red, or pink; reflectorized tabs, whistles, global position systems, portable strobe lights, signal mirrors, portable radios, and charged cellular phones are items which can be helpful when something goes wrong on the mountain. Simple things like carrying a map and compass and more importantly, knowing how to use them are critical to survival when visibility conditions change or a rapid descent is warranted. Climbing equipment include proper footwear and crampons to negotiate icy conditions at higher elevations”.
Burns added that climbers should travel with at least one experienced climber in the party, and it is always better to travel in groups.
“Always be familiar with your route and advise a friend or relative of your intended route and time of return. Always be prepared for adverse weather and environmental conditions on the mountain. Conditions, especially at higher elevations, can change abruptly,” he said.
Climbers should come equipped with proper clothing and footwear, and carry enough equipment for routine and emergency situations, because a quick rescue may not always be possible, especially in a wilderness area such as Mt. Shasta, and particularly at higher elevations, said Burns.
“It is common for climbers to be disoriented during sudden changes in weather especially when visibility is reduced,” Burns said. “There are very helpful private guide and equipment rental services available in Mt. Shasta as well for climbers and other mountain enthusiasts.”
“It is always a good day when rescued climbers return home alive and well,” said Lopey.