California hiker trapped under 5-ton boulder for 7 hours rescued by volunteers


A hiker was trapped beneath a 5-ton boulder on a California cliffside for seven hours last week until a volunteer search team freed him in a daring rescue that ran into the early morning hours.

The unidentified man’s legs became pinned beneath a boulder in an accident while he was hiking the Inyo Mountains on Tuesday afternoon, according to Inyo County Search & Rescue — which was called to respond.

Nine volunteer crew members made their way out to the stranded hiker below the Santa Rita Flat via helicopter and four-wheel drive vehicles, arriving well after dark, the rescue team said.

They found the hiker “in great pain with his left leg pinned beneath a large boulder on a steep hillside.”

They estimated the boulder crushing his leg weighed between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds, Inyo County Search & Rescue said.

Large boulder with metal leverage tool underneath at night
The search and rescue crew estimated the boulder crushing his leg weighed between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds. Inyo County Search & Rescue

The rescue team crafted “a system of ropes, pulleys, and leverage” to shift the giant rock just enough to free the man’s leg. They then assessed his crushed leg and stabilized the injury until medics arrived via helicopter.

“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 Lemoor,” Inyo County Search & Rescue said.

The helicopter was unable to land due to the hilly terrain so a US Navy medic rappelled down to the injured hiker and both were hoisted up into the aircraft.

The hiker was flown to a hospital in Fresno for treatment after midnight.

Volunteer rescue team members assist injured hiker at night
The hiker was trapped, with his leg pinned under the boulder for seven hours. Inyo County Search & Rescue

The Inyo County Search & Rescue crew members headed out of the mountains and signed off at 4 a.m.

The team said the difficult mission included several challenges along the way including “coordination of multiple agencies and resources; accessing an accident scene in steep, loose rocky terrain; using limited resources to move a large boulder; managing a severely injured patient for several hours while awaiting the helicopter extrication; assisting in a nighttime helicopter hoist; all in chilly December darkness.”

The nonprofit did not provide an update on the hiker’s condition.

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