Topanga Canyon News
LASD Dramatically Rescues Trapped Hiker
By Brianna Sacks
Sep 23, 2011 - 9:17:10 PM

TOPANGA CANYON—Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department rescued a 24-year-old woman trapped on a 500-foot sheer cliff in Topanga Canyon Thursday around 6:30 p.m. The female hiker was clinging to the side of a vertical cliff, 500 feet from the canyon floor. LASD Air-5 Rescue crew was able to retrieve her one-hour before nightfall.

Dramatic rescue, courtesy of LAPD

The woman had been trapped in a seated position for over two hours with one hand grasping the cliff side, after her hiking partner led her over the side for a climbing adventure.

The two hikers had been scaling down the nearly vertical rock known as “Eagle Rock” in Topanga State park. After making it forty feet down the cliff they realized the adventure was far more dangerous than they had expected.

The male hiker climbed back up to the top of the cliff in order to construct a makeshift safety line for her to hold onto. Due to poor cell phone reception the pair was stuck in their positions for two hours until the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station could be notified.

LASD Air-5 arrived immediately and was shocked to see the young woman clinging to the cliff side in regular running clothes, not climbing gear. Mike Parker of the LASD tweeted that the female sustained minor injuries and that watching the rescue “took [his] breath away.”

The timing of the rescue was crucial, as it was about “an hour from darkness,” said Sgt. Barth, chief of the Air-5 Rescue Crew. “At night, we have to wear night vision goggles, which limits your field of vision to about a third and is ten times as difficult for us to make rescues.”

The crew brought the rescue helicopter as close to the sheer cliff as possible. Barth prepared the hoist and lowered Sheriff’s Paramedic Deputy Mark Desmarteau from the aircraft.

The dramatic rescue required strategic maneuvers, as the “the wind and rotor wash against the rock face creates a vortex and we sometimes start spinning out of control as we leave the aircraft “ Deputy Desmarteau said. “I pointed to a place on the cliff face away from the woman, so the Crew Chief would know where to position me, and so I could stop the spin by grasping the cliff.” It is crucial that the rescue chief and crew are spot on when they lower the rescuer, “If not exactly right, we could accidentally knock her off the cliff. The teamwork on these missions is essential and we all depend on each other,” Barth said in a statement.

Desmarteau finally got a hold of the cliff face and made his way over to the woman, reached out his arms and placed a safety harness about her waist. The woman had a death grip on the cliff and Desmarteau had trouble prying her fingers from the face. Understandably so, as “there is no surviving that fall,” Desmarteau said.

Once in the helicopter she said, “Thank you, thank you,” and gave each of the deputies a big hug.

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