California

Rescuers save hikers from an icy peak. Volunteers went back to save Stella the husky

Volunteers Chuck Thompson of Big Bear Lake, left, and Kurt Arend of Angelus Oaks carry Stella, a Siberian husky, off San Gorgonio Mountain after she was inadvertantly left behind a day earlier during a helicopter rescue of two hikers.
Volunteers Chuck Thompson of Big Bear Lake, left, and Kurt Arend of Angelus Oaks carry Stella, a Siberian husky, off San Gorgonio Mountain after she was inadvertantly left behind a day earlier during a helicopter rescue of two hikers. Bear Valley Search and Rescue

A snowy trek on San Gorgonio Mountain in Southern California turned perilous for two hikers Monday when icy conditions spooked their husky, Stella, The San Bernardino Sun reported.

Jennifer Graham told McClatchy that she and fiance David Westberg let Stella off her leash to prevent her from pulling someone over, but she dashed off the trail to some rocks. As Westberg called to her to come back, he slipped and fell off the icy trail, Graham said.

He “slid approximately 150 feet down a steep slope,” according to a release by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. Westberg suffered a broken rib, minor internal bleeding and a hurt knee, Graham said.

“It’s a pretty treacherous part of the trail,” firefighter Randy Ridges told McClatchy.

Westberg called 911 and rescuers sent two sheriff’s helicopters, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department reported. The helicopters airlifted Westberg and Graham to safety.

With night fast approaching, rescuers had to use night-vision goggles to hoist Graham off the mountain, the sheriff’s department said.

While the couple had notified 911 dispatchers and a paramedic about Stella, who Ridges said had “scampered away” before rescuers arrived, the word apparently didn’t get passed to everyone involved in the rescue, Graham said.

Ridges said he only found out about Stella in a conversation with Rick Heltebrake, a nearby camp ranger, after the rescue.

“You know their dog’s still up there,” Ridges said Heltebrake told him.

On Tuesday, Ridges and other rescuers — acting strictly as volunteer private citizens — returned to San Gorgonio Mountain to look for Stella.

Westberg’s injuries had prevented the couple from going back for Stella, Graham said.

A 10 a.m. search party came up empty, but a 2 p.m. effort quickly located Stella when she “made herself known” to them, Ridges said.

The Siberian husky had somehow clambered onto icy rocks about 200 feet above the trail, he said. “It took awhile for people to get up to her,” Ridges said.

Resident Kurt Arend, who joined the search because his own dog had once been lost for 18 days on the mountain before being saved, finally brought Stella down in a controlled slide down 75 feet of icy slope, Ridges said.

“Despite spending the night on a freezing mountainside,” Stella was fine, The San Bernardino Sun reported.

She spent Tuesday night at a nearby Boy Scouts of America camp and was reunited Wednesday with her owners, Ridges said.

Part of the San Bernardino National Forest, San Gorgonio Mountain stands 11,499 feet high, making it the tallest peak in Southern California, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It’s visible from Mount Whitney, 190 miles away.

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