Update: The two young adults rescued from Bishop Peak on Sunday were Cal Poly students. Agriculture and environmental plant sciences freshman Sage Barca-Hall and bioresource and agricultural engineering freshman Peter Lansdale were climbing off the main trail when a rock dislodged itself, causing their fall. The pair sustained several injuries but have been released from the hospital and are back in classes.
The rescuers arrived around 5 p.m. to aid the two injured males. They had originally been in a group of four, John MacDonald, the acting San Luis Obispo City Fire Department battalion chief, said. Other than the two injured hikers, one headed down the mountain in search of help, while the other stayed and used his cell phone to call for help.
“We requested an additional two engines from CAL FIRE for their assistance,” MacDonald said. “We also requested the San Luis Obispo County Search and Rescue team. That totaled about 35 people.”
That group, however, had a hard time reaching the victims, due to the fact the climbers had ventured off the designated paths.
“They were off of all trails, and they were in an area that they shouldn’t have been without climbing experience,” MacDonald said. “And based on the time of day and the weather, they probably shouldn’t have been in that area to begin with.”
It had been raining earlier that day, and the trails were noticeably slippery, MacDonald said. And while he didn’t know for certain if the weather played a factor in the fall, he said it could have.
Upon locating the victims on the mountain, a group of four firefighters were sent to the hikers. As the team made its way to the injured males, they realized it would be easiest to carry the two down the face of the mountain using ropes, CAL FIRE captain Mark Cameron, who was a part of the team that responded to the call, said.
“As it turned out, the team that we sent to the top to assess them realized that it was going to be probably more difficult to get back to the top of the mountain than it would have been to continually carry them down the mountain,” Cameron said. “So at around 7 o’clock is when we really started relaying some really large rope up the face of the mountain.”
From there, the team used two 600-foot rope systems to take them down. The first system lowered the victims about 3 to 400 feet, and then the two traversed across the peak 40 to 50 feet. At that point, they were lowered another 120 to 130 feet where they could be safely escorted to the trail, Cameron said.
This, however, hasn’t been the only accident on the mountain in recent memory. A Cal Poly student fell 25-feet from an area on the cliff two weeks ago, leading MacDonald, who’s been with the department for 14 years, to say he feels the number of accidents taking place atop Bishop Peak aren’t necessarily uncommon.
“They’ve really been happening for as long as I can remember,” MacDonald said. “I can’t tell you that there’s been in an increase from a certain date of off-trail stuff, but I would say that the mountain is becoming more popular. And we obviously have no problem with people being up there, we just want them to stay on the path and trails.”
However, child development senior Lexi Hrinko said she thinks most hikers in the area know how to practice correct safety measures while on hikes. She, herself, was planning to go on a hike this weekend, but turned back due to trail conditions, she said.
“I know some college students hike at night after they’ve been drinking, and that’s not smart,” Hrinko said. “But the people I always see hiking have water and the right shoes. So I think the ones that are hiking regularly know what they’re dong.”