Inyo County’s all-volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) team celebrated the end of a busy year on Monday, Jan. 11 at Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop. The majority of the team’s 30 active members were in attendance, as well as Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Derr, Inyo County Supervisors Matt Kingsley, Jeff Griffiths, and Rick Pucci, and Sheriff Bill Lutz.
Deputy Derr told those assembled that the Inyo SAR team responded to 21 callouts in 2015, putting in roughly 2,000 hours to recover injured and in some cases deceased climbers and hikers.
“This was the first year in our history that we’ve done not one but two actual hoists off of peaks above 13,000 feet,” Deputy Derr said. “Throughout the State, I don’t believe that’s actually been done.”
Also in attendance at the Inyo SAR dinner was one hiker who benefited from the team’s efforts—Elena Zack, who nearly succumbed to hyponatremia (critically low sodium levels) after summiting Mt. Whitney in August.
At just over 10,000 feet, Zack began to complain of a headache. She soon became disoriented, then lost her ability to speak, and finally suffered a full-body seizure.
Seven SAR members and six Cal Fire personnel carried Zack four miles in a wheeled litter down to Whitney Portal, where she was transferred to the hospital.
“It’s probably a thankless job, often,” Zack told SAR team members on Monday night, “but I wouldn’t be standing here if not for you. You guys saved my life.”
Zack thanked Deputy Derr and Inyo SAR Vice President Ariana Wylie for helping her husband Ted and daughter Shayne remain calm when they didn’t know if she would live or die.
She noted that Wylie and team members Max Gallegos and Rose Masters showed up to the hospital at 6 a.m. after the all-night rescue to check on her, and that team member Kyle Oney, who was new to the crew, “didn’t trade out of [carrying] that litter once.”
“To all of you, thank you,” she said. “I’m eternally grateful and I will continue to pray for all of you as you continue on your missions.”
While Inyo SAR has oversight from the County Sheriff’s Department, the greater part of its funding comes from public donations. To donate to Inyo SAR, visit www.inyosar.com/dontate/.