A hiker’s legs were stuck under an estimated 10,000-pound boulder in California’s Inyo Mountains for a painstaking seven hours until he was finally rescued, officials said.
Inyo County Search and Rescue, a volunteer organization, was called to conduct the rescue mission after the local sheriff’s office was notified about the trapped hiker near Independence on Dec. 5, the organization said in a news release.
With the help of a California Highway Patrol helicopter and the sheriff’s office, rescuers were able to reach the hiker below the Santa Rita Flat after dark, and found him “in great pain,” Inyo County Search and Rescue said.
His left leg was “pinned beneath a large boulder on a steep hillside” that was estimated to weigh between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds, according to authorities.
To free him, rescuers used a system of “ropes, pulleys, and leverage” to shift the boulder.
“Due to the seriousness of the hiker’s injuries and the difficulty of the terrain, it was decided to extricate the hiker despite the darkness using a helicopter from US Naval Air Station Lemoore,” the release said.
However, there were no “suitable” helicopter landing zones near the rescue site. A U.S. Navy medic rappelled from the helicopter to the scene to extricate the injured hiker and he was flown to Fresno for treatment after midnight, officials said.
Officials did not identify the hiker and it’s not clear what his current condition is.
Inyo County Search and Rescue said the mission was no easy feat due to loose rocky terrain, limited resources to move the large boulder and rescuers had to manage the hiker’s health for hours while awaiting the helicopter in the “chilly December darkness.”
The long rescue mission saw the search and rescue team return to its base in Bishop hours later, finally signing out at 4 a.m. local time.