Helmet cams document technical hoist rescue of fallen climber in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Jun 29, 2018, 9:53 PM | Updated: 11:35 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah – Rescuers said he was hanging upside down and bleeding, and that was only the beginning of a challenging technical rescue of a climber earlier this month from Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Coalpit Gulch.

Newly-released helmet camera footage documents the June 11 hoist rescue involving the crew of a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter.

DPS Sgt. Wyatt Weber, a tactical flight operator, said it was “one of the more difficult” rescues in which his crew had been involved.

“(The injured climber) actually said that he couldn’t feel his legs initially and so we were worried about a back injury,” Weber recalled. “He was upside down and bleeding, so the combination of all those things added some urgency to that. We needed to get him off the mountain and to some medical care.”

Weber operated the hoist as another member of the crew was lowered down to secure the man.

“This is what we call a ‘hanging pick,’” Weber explained. “We leave the rescue specialist attached to the cable. He never comes off and is attached to the aircraft the whole time, and he gets down to the area where the patient is and he uses a device we call an air rescue vest. He was able to, with the help of the other climbers in the area, get that air rescue vest onto the patient and then attach the patient to the helicopter and the cable at the same time.”

Weber quipped that the rescue seemed to be taking “a really long time.”

In reality, he said it was about five minutes from when a rescuer was lowered to when the climber was lifted to safety.

“That’s a long time to hover an aircraft and keep an aircraft within a couple of feet to make that happen,” Weber said. “I’m constantly talking to the pilot, because he can’t see what’s going on—he’s looking out in front of the aircraft and I’m telling him, ‘Hey, I need you to hold your left, hold your right, hold your down, hold your up.’”

Weber said the climber was with others, was well-equipped and was doing “everything right” prior to the accident.

Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue said at the time the man was transferred to a Life Flight helicopter, which transported him to the hospital to treat him for head and back injuries.

Weber said he was grateful to the other climbers for their help during the rescue.

“Having those extra hands there definitely helped us,” Weber said.

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Helmet cams document technical hoist rescue of fallen climber in Little Cottonwood Canyon