Rescuing stranded hikers isn’t unusual for the U.S. Park Service. However, calling in a Chinook to rescue a stranded hiker is not an everyday occurrence.
Early in February, snow storms engulfed the peaks at Yosemite National Park. Midday on Feb. 5, Park Officials were alerted that a young man was reported to be alone and disoriented near Iron Mountain at an elevation of 9,000 feet.
Park officials coordinated with the local Sherriff’s office, who alerted the Office of Emergency Services and the California National Guard Joint Operations Center. The report stated a 22-year-old male did not know his location and had spent the previous night alone with no food, water or shelter in four feet of snow. The California Highway Patrol dispatched a helicopter to search for the missing person, but due to strong gusty winds, their helicopter couldn’t fly at the high altitudes.
“We had a CH-47D Chinook crew in Sacramento and ready to respond,” said Capt. Benjamin D Bowman, commander, Company B, 1-126th General Support Aviation Battalion, California National Guard.
The crew diverted to Stockton, Calif., where it took on rescue equipment, reconfigured the aircraft for a hoist rescue and brought on an additional pilot to assist with the operation. “We were able to contact the stranded hiker on his still-operable cell phone,” said Bowman. “We talked him through the procedures for the rescue. Because he was on the side of a steep slope, surrounded by 100-foot trees and unable to hike out, we planned to hoist him out on the rescue seat.”
Bowman relayed information from the hiker to the Chinook crew by phone, guiding the aircraft to the hiker’s location until the crew could see him among the trees. The flight engineer lowered the rescue seat while the pilots worked the aircraft controls to hold a stable hover in very strong, gusty winds. The young hiker climbed into the seat and was slowly lifted to safety just more than three hours from notification to rescue.
The Chinook is called in when conditions keep other helicopters from flying. With its tandem rotor configuration, the CH-47 can operate at high altitudes and crosswind conditions with the precision that enables a safe rescue like this one. The Chinook is capable of supporting multiple missions including troop transport, special operations, equipment transport, Search and Rescue, humanitarian relief, fire fighting, MEDEVAC and logistical supply.
For coverage from the California National Guard on this incredible rescue, click here .