5,686 forum posts
Since the Outdoor Incidents thread has gotten so long, I decided to start a continuation with the following:
I had more excitement than I had bargained for on my training hike today up Mission Peak, a very popular urban park in the East Bay Regional Parks system. On arriving at the Stanford Ave parking lot, I noted that the wind was stronger than I had encountered before at this location - trees bending over, wind noise very loud, and all that. I had, of course, forgotten to bring my Kestrel 4500 weather instrument with wind speed indicator. But, I headed up the hill anyway. At the half-mile point, I encountered a man lying on the ground, obviously injured, and 4 people clustered around him. It turned out he had fallen on the gravel and severely twisted his ankle. It appeared to be a serious sprain or perhaps broken ankle (two of the women there were nurses and thought it was definitely broken, but as I learned in my Wilderness First Aid training, you can't tell without an Xray, and besides I am not a doctor). The nurses had him laid out, with the ankle wrapped with an ace bandage and a Camelbak bladder for cooling (no ice, though). Ok to this point. But they had not thought to ask if he had struck his head, so no C-spine precaution. Another man there was trying to call 911. Ummm, sorry, but 911 cell calls in Mission Peak go to the California Highway Patrol in Fairfax, not to the local city emergency 911 line (in Fremont). You should call the East Bay Regional Parks Police to get the emergency vehicles there faster. This is generally true for many Open Space and Regional Parks in "urban" areas. The man finally got transferred to Fremont emergency.
A helicopter soon arrived and began circling. There is no convenient place to land the chopper, especially given the high winds. In a short while, the local ranger (Neil) appeared, driving the park pickup up the hill, followed by Fremont Fire Paramedics and an AMR ambulance. After handover to professional hands, I decided (as I have been taught) to reduce the crowd and depart on up the hill. Here is the scene:
As I continued, I encountered a number of folks, many of whom had turned back due to the winds, and a number of whom were perched on the overlooks watching the excitement (a circling helicopter attracts attention). I estimated the winds as being in the 25-30 knot range. But I continued onward and upward into the Howl of the Teething Gale (any Feghoot fans out there?). As I got to the saddle, I had caught a few people, some of whom turned back at the increased wind speed (now more like a steady 35-40 knots with stronger gusts). Along the summit ridge, I had to walk with a pronounced lean. At the summit, I estimate the winds to have been a steady 40 knots, with the occasional 50 knot gust, stronger than I had experienced there before when having the Kestrel with me (highest I have measured there was 35 knots, and this was stronger). I photographed a couple of men walking along the ridge. so you can see -
The pole at the vista point (at the left of the ridge) is vertical. Judge the windspeed yourself by the lean of the hikers.
A short visit at the top was sufficient, so I headed down. At the parking lot, I found Neil (the ranger), getting ready to carry a truck-load of packs for a Boy Scout Troop to the campsite on the back side of Mission Peak. Among the luggage was a pile of a dozen boxes of extra-large pizzas. Hmmm, in my Scout Troop (the one I was Scoutmaster of, as well as the one I went through as a kid), we didn't get take-out pizzas, and have our packs ferried by truck. By the way, Neil confirmed the wind speeds I had estimated - a while before the accident, he had one of the fire department people up at the saddle with a wind speed measuring tool, and got steady 40 knots, gusting to 50-60 knots.
Anyway, lessons for even casual day hikers -
1. have the right phone number to get the emergency personnel to you quicker. 911 cell calls may be relayed to a central dispatch office 50 to 100 miles away or more, if they get through at all. It is best to call the land manager for the particular park
2. Many of the "urban" parks we visit are, for practical purposes, wilderness. That is, they are beyond the 5-minute 911 response boundaries. They may be out of cell phone range. So having wilderness first aid training is very important.
3. Many of the SFBay Area fire, police, paramedic, and ambulance services are equipped with GPS receivers, as well as many emergency personnel in other areas, so giving the GPS-derived coordinates is helpful, as is knowing where the access points are for the parks.
4. It is a good idea to have a first aid kit that can handle injuries from someone falling - you can break a leg or ankle or arm or worse, even on as well-maintained trails as most of these parks have.