Japanese climber falls 125 feet, flown out of backcountry

A Japanese climber who fell 125 feet when he slipped while trying to climb Sawtooth Ridge area above Bridgeport was flow out of the backcountry with serious injuries on Aug. 15.

According to the Mono County Sheriff’s Department, the incident occurred on Friday, Aug. 15 at approximately 12:55 p.m. when sheriff’s dispatch received a call regarding an injured climber on a ridge in the Sawtooth Ridge area.

Two climbers were attempting to climb the ridge and during their ascent, they were climbing up a 45-degree ice field with ice axes, according to a sheriff’s department news release.

One of the climbers, a 31-year-old man visiting from Japan, fell when his ice axe lost purchase on the ice. He slid and tumbled 125 feet down the ice into the rocks below.

The climber sustained serious injuries to his arms (with a bone breaking the skin and visible), ribs and abdomen. There was heavy bleeding and the injured climber asked his friend to tourniquet-pressure dress both of his arms with his bandana and webbing.

There was no cell phone service in their location, so, after treating his friend’s injuries, the second climber hiked out two and a half hours to find help. The Mono County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Team was called to aid the injured climber.

Six SAR Team members staged at Bryant Airfield in Bridgeport. A helicopter from Yosemite National Park attempted to locate the injured climber. Initially, the climber was unable to be located via air, so a ground team was inserted to search for the climber.

It was discovered that the injured climber had moved from where his friend had left him and attempted to walk out of the area.

Fortunately, he was located, stabilized and flown out of the area for further medical treatment.