By: Mark Adrian
Finally, after nearly three years, I was anxiously anticipating finishing the DPS list In the middle of summer - anyone could do it in a cooler part of the year. It would be a classic (crazy ?) way to finish the list in style. So, that was the plan as Dennis Richards and I headed towards Joshua Tree, Friday afternoon. We arrived near dinner time in Yucca Valley and stopped at Ed Chada's Mexican restaurant. Half way through our find basket of chips, a 'mild' 5.0 earthquake rolled through town which immediately got our attention as we watched Ed's plywood walls wobble with threatening motions. Being near the epicenter, it was the sharpest jolt I've ever felt in a quake. Was this a prelude of things to come, or just the desert teasing me as I neared list completion? After dinner, we proceeded to the dirt road turnoff where we met Ken Olson and Tom Moumblow who had arrived there minutes before. We continued four miles on the sometimes-sandy good-dirt road to J.T.'s boundary where we camped and awaked ate rest of the group's arrival. By midnight, we were all there and decided to start hiking by six AM., assuring our return by noon.
Daylight was upon us by 5:30 AM. In the surprisingly cool morning air. Our group of nine (Mark, Dennis, Ken, Tom. Gail Hanna, Terry Flood, Carol Snyder, Paula Peterson (Bruce waited at the car) and John Strauch) were ready to go by six. We proceeded southward toward Route B in comfortable shade, then started climbing up a steep canyon over very rocky terrain, eventually reaching a small saddle and level "bowl" where we rested and evaluated our position. Continuing on, we again dipped down into a small bowl and then back up to another saddle where we were greeted by a blazing sun. Dennis and Tom decided to scout the route ahead while the group rested. Several minutes later, they indicated for us to proceed. I moved out with Paula several hundred feet behind me and Terry behind her. The terrain here seemed relatively innocent - TV sized boulders of varying shapes. I was picking my way across this contour, when, about 8:15, I heard Paula scream - my first thought was that she encountered a rattler. Again, a piercing scream: 'help me! help me! God help me, I've broken my arm!'. My stomach felt like it was center punched. Dennis, Tom and myself immediately retreated back to Paula. By the time we got there, the group had gathered around her to surmise the situation. she had apparently underestimated the depth of a shadowed hole underneath a rock, stepped into it, then fallen forward onto her right arm. At the time, we couldn't tell the extent of her Injury, but Paula was in excruciating pain Terry carefully pulled her up and sat her on a nearby rock, where he and Dennis used Ken's insulite seat pad and an ace bandage to fabricate a splint which they carefully administered - Paula still screaming In agony as they wrapped the ace around her. It was evident (to me) that she couldn't walk out and carrying her would be impossible over Spectre's rough, rocky terrain. Under her own power, Paula was able to walk several feet to a nearby pocket of shade where she laid down and was in relatively comfort, while the rest of us formed a rescue plan. Paula had evaluated herself and determined she wanted an air-evac. Fortunately, Ken and I had our two meter HAM radios. Due to the surrounding topography of rock, I wasn't able to transmit a signal to any nearby CA repeaters. However, Ken was able to 'trip' the Hualapai repeater near Kingman, AZ so, I was able to establish communications with a HAM radio operator there (KB7USA). Due to the nature of our situation (Health and Welfare traffic), we were given exclusive use of the repeater. I informed him (K87USA) about our predicament and waited for him to contact J.T. Subsequently, KB7USA relayed the message to another HAM radio operator (KM6SQ) In Twenty Nine Palms using the Condor Net (a linked repeater system using 220 MHz). He (KM6SQ), then, placed a call to J.T. where the Search and Rescue effort was initiated, at, when, I would approximate, to be no later than 9:30 AM. After I received confirmation that the call had been placed, I forwarded directions on how to get to Spectre's TH and details about the injury and our exact (UTM) location on the Cadiz Valley SW 7.5 topo. At 10:30, we decided to send Ken and Tom back to the vehicles with a copy of the map with our location X'ed. For some reason(s) the Forest Service wanted our position in Range/Township/Sector specifications. However, the Cadiz Valley SW 9.5 quad didn't have this information for our location, So, Dennis counted grid lines and gave them a 'best guess' - still, though, I think it was sending Ken and Tom down with a copy of the map (and other details) that zeroed them in. Ken and I kept in radio contact, so I knew they were making good and timely progress. Several hours passed before the SAR team arrived at the TH near 12:30, just as Ken and Tom returned with the map. Paula, resting comfortably under John's space blanket, was being consoled by Carol and Gail, while Terry and Dennis kept track of her pulse and other symptomatic vitals. Coincidentally, one of the SAR team's members was a HAM operator that 'found' me on the radio since I had documented our standard simplex radio frequency In my trip writeup which Bruce (still at the trail head) gave them. We confirmed our situation and were told to stand by as a helicopter (flown in from Keenwild Forest Station) was being prepared for departure from the TH with two EMTs. At 12:44 the helicopter lifted off and was shortly buzzing overhead searching for a landing position, I have to say that the pilot was nothing less than courageous as he aced an awesome 'three point' landing In a very tight spot. Even the experienced EMTs were amazed. Within minutes the EMT's were attending to Paula, and had reworked our splint and applied chemical cold packs to her arm. Note that one of their cold packs failed to work Meanwhile, the copter returned to the TH to wait the EMTs' consensus about Paula's condition The EMTs could not conclude the extent of her injury, but, it was clear that she would need an evacuation. We had contemplated everything from a complete break to a simple dislocation. So, the copter, once again, landed, and took Paula and the two EMTs back to the paved road where they rendezvoused at 1:30 with an awaiting ambulance. Paula was then transported down to Palm Springs (Yucca Valley refused to take her because her injuries were too serious. The X-ray revealed a complete fracture, two inches above the elbow. Due to the location of the break, It could not be casted, rather, it was 'secured' to her torso. Since the break was not 'clean', there were jagged edges which, had we moved Paula, could have severed nerves and/or an artery. Note that a ruptured artery can be fatal. Relieved that Paula was in capable hands, our group of six decided to continue on to Spectre's summit via Aqua BM. Arriving there about 4, in dry 92 degree heat, we enjoyed a successful yet somber, list finish, complete with gifts, champagne, a sentimental poem written by Paula, and great views of the surrounding DPS peaks, including Rabbit, my first. After an hour, we departed and returned via route A arriving at the trucks near 8 P.M., as the last orange glows of the sunset bounced off a cluster of streamer clouds.
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