A hiker tuckered out early Wednesday evening after trekking up a path near Santiago Peak, and he didn’t have enough steam to make it back down.
Fortunately, the Orange County Fire Authority’s rescue helicopterrecently was made available on a 24-hour basis, saving the Huntington Beach man from waiting several hours – and possibly overnight – for rescue, OCFA Capt. Shane Sherwood said.
The man, who was in his 20s, hiked about 100 feet up near Santiago Peak earlier in the day, but then called 911 for help as the sun began to set.
The helicopter rescue team headed out and hoisted the man about 200 feet in the air before taking him to a waiting crew of paramedics on the ground on Plano Trabuco Road around 8:15 p.m.
Without the helicopter, the rescue, which took less than a hour, could have taken several hours longer because of thick vegetation in the area and the inability to drive to where the hiker was stranded, Sherwood said.
“(OCFA) would have had to hike people in and then hike them out,” Sherwood said. “Who knows what time that would have been, or we would have brought him supplies and got him the next day.”
Because of the high elevation – about 5,500 feet – temperatures would have been well below what he’s used to at his Huntington Beach home. It’s unlikely the man was prepared for an overnight stay on the mountain, officials said.
The man was released to his awaiting family at OCFA Fire Station 45 and was able to return to his seaside abode unscathed.