The Marines helped Inyo Search and Rescue volunteers fly a critically injured climber off of Mt. Whitney early in the morning Sunday.
Sgt. Keith Hardcastle with the Inyo Sheriffs Department reports that at 3:40 on Saturday afternoon, officers received the report of a climber that fell near the top of the mountaineers route on Mt. Whitney. Hardcastle explained that a 58 year old Walnut Creek resident Sang Nam lost his footing, taking a thousand foot slide and tumble down the hard snow and ice in the east facing chute.
A nearby mountaineering guide who witnessed the fall, called the accident in and reported that the victim had major head injuries and possible internal injuries as well.
With two other climbers helping out, three Inyo SAR volunteers flown in by a CHP helicopter, worked to lower the victim from an elevation of 13,000 feet down to where the CHP helicopter could land near Iceberg Lake. With nightfall upon them before the victim could be lowered to the landing zone, the CHP helicopter had to leave because it is not equipped to fly at night.
Due to the severity of the climbers injuries, Inyo County requested a military helicopter that could fly through the mountainous terrain using night vision technology. The State Office of Emergency Services found a Marine CH-53 helicopter on night training exercises at Edwards Air Force Base.
At about 1:30 in the morning this powerful helicopter was able to fly into Iceberg Lake and pick up the rescuers and the victim in one trip. A Mercy Air helicopter out of Mojave met the Marines at the Lone Pine airport to fly the victim to the trauma unit in Bakersfield where Nam was listed in critical condition.