Chillin’ with Ellen on San Jacinto

General Palm Springs area.

Postby Ellen » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:04 pm

Howdy Jim,

I had the bag near my body inside the sleeping bag 8) I was hoping the ambient temperature would be warmer inside the sleeping bag. It was warmer, but not enough to melt snow.

Trust me, I didn't want anything cold such as a bag of snow touching my skin as I'd already had a long and intimate encounter with the snow :lol:

Miles of smiles,
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Postby myerslaw » Wed Feb 20, 2008 3:53 pm

I shall try to remain within the rules of the Message Board, and refrain from disrespectful or risque allusions. However, the Rules for "Donner Party -- the Party Game" require that there be more than one person playing. Otherwise, it's just no fun. It was a terrific job of storytelling, with a very happy ending indeed. And it confirms, yet again, just why it is that I avoid exercise or challenging Mother Nature.

Of course, you were bound (and determined) to survive. Perhaps without thinking, you assured yourself of some degree of safety by one important choice of apparel. As you know, with baldness I have gained some appreciation for the orthodox tradition of the yarmulke. But any skullcap -- even a Peruvian one -- offers the possibility of divine intervention.

Joseph Peter Myers
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Postby some guy » Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:21 pm

Thanks for the response re snow. Your freezer bag trick reminded me of a Bear Grylls episode on the Discovery Channel where he was trekking through Patagonia and demonstrated filling an empty water bottle with snow and tucking it between layers of clothes to let it melt. Of course, as hikin_jim mentioned, one puts out a lot more body heat while out and about and in full sunshine.

And that Baer Grylls guy is kind of a nut anyway. I like how, after eating something disgusting like a giant beetle or a tree frog, he'll say "tastes like..." and come up with some random description "...week old prawns that have been stewed with moldy gym socks." or something similar. But then there was the time that he attempted to eat raw goat testicles while in the Sahara. He couldn't come up with a good description but instead promptly vomited. :lol:

But, I digress...
some guy
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Chillin' with Ellen on San Jacinto

Postby Rick M » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:35 am


First off, I'm glad you are ok. I am with Riverside Mountain Rescue (I live in Hesperia) and was one of the two rescuers that went down to retrieve the fallen marine about the time you were on San Jacinto Peak.

I don't know how serious your frostbite is but I meant to ask you earlier if you could document photographically the injury for educational purposes. In 1985 I rescued a Japanese climber on Denali with pulmonary edema by retrieving oxygen from the medical research camp at 14,000' and taking down to his location and in general, carrying for him till he was better. I then rejoined my team for our attempt but at 17,000+ and in -44 temps one of our party came down with what we thought was the beginnings of cerebral edema and in our haste to get him down that morning, I frost bit 5 toes (black and blistered) and ended up losing the end of my left big toe.

The doctor in Anchorage was apprehensive about me coming back to California for treatment since frostbite is rare in So Cal. He sent down a pile of info with me to give to my doctor (pre-internet days) that was fortunate since he had never treated frostbite and today's (1985) treatment was different than what he witnessed in the Korean War (amputation of anything black). Because frostbite was a rarity, my doctor used me as a teaching subject to go to places like Irvine Medical Center, etc for interns and others to see (and probe) for themselves. And, he used the pictures for teaching later on (I also used them when I did clinics for REI and for survival classes at SAR City, Sierra Club and other venues).

So, since you have probably already had tons of e-mails to read, my message is one of if you can take photographs of your injuries and the progression of the healing process (mine took 4 months to heal before I could wear shoes) it could be of value teaching about the cold injury hazards that winter in the Southern California mountains can produce. Especially with the digital internet world we live in today.

Just a thought,

Rick Maschek

ps For acclimatization for Denali, I was working as a ranger below sea level at Furnace Creek in Death Valley the previous 6 months (:
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:11 pm

I can see it now: "Ellen Coleman, frostbite model" :D
Backpacking stove reviews and information:  Adventures In Stoving
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Postby Ellen » Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:55 am

Howdy Rick :D

Holy Cow dude, you are a SAR stud!!! Thanks for returning our marines to Uncle Sam 8)

The trauma/burn surgeon (Dr. Pax) at Desert Regional said I did not have true 2nd stage frostbite but what he called 2nd stage cold injury. I don't recall whether they took pictures of my hands and knees in the ER. He called for gradual rewarming -- letting nature take it's course. Dr. Pax thought I would make a full recovery since I still had sensation in my finger tips. Only my right big toe was affected. I was wearing all leather Merrell boots and Thurlo trekking (100% wool) socks

As the hands warmed up (by Tuesday morning), they looked awful. I had black tissue on the underside of my fingertips and blisters on top on my fingers between the nails and knuckles. Several knuckles were also blistered. About 12 days after the initial injury (Feb 2), the black tissue began to peel off and I had bright pink healthy tissue underneath.

Currently (3 weeks from initial cold injury), I have residual numbness and the fingertips are extremely sensitive. I still have two broken blisters that are healing. I'll keep track of how long it takes to regain full sensation.

I suspect I sustained the cold injury due to crawling through snow (even though I wore waterproof gloves) rather than due to the ambient temperature in the hut. I doubt it got much below 0 degrees in the hut. It was 17 degrees when I was rescued at 8:30 AM. Compared to when I was shivering, 17 degrees felt "warm."

Your Denali exposure was so much worse. The coldest temperature I've been in was -30 at high camp (19,300) at night on Aconcagua during a storm. However, we were protected in our sleeping bags in our tents.

Forgive my ignorance, but were you wearing double-plastic boots back then?

Miles of smiles,
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Postby 44cmpd » Sun Feb 24, 2008 2:22 pm

Ellen, I was not part of this forum prior to your rescue. It was great to have found you in such high spirits. I've been on a number of missions since I joined RMRU in the late 90's and you were the first one that I have had to treat for a broken bone. I thought you would like to hear that now and not up on the mountain. Not that we don't get them, it was just my first. It was great though because I had just come from a wilderness first aid refreasher class the prior weekend.

I'm also a Boy Scout leader and your accounts of your adventure will be used with great respect with my scouts. You have what we call in my line of work, "The will to survive." Along with faith, it can get you far. You were in fact in a situation in which you could have very easily made poor decisions that would have been fatal. But you didn't. Your clear thinking and good physical conditioning are what kept you alive and got you to that hut.

I'm sorry I wasn't able to visit you at the hospital but work called me away. I'm glad to see you will be recovering and would love to make the summit hike with you.

D. Potts
"Mountains and wilderness don't care, you take care, be safe."
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Postby crazyQfarms » Sun Feb 24, 2008 2:32 pm

Hi Ellen!
As you may have guessed, SueK. has sent your little escapade to many Outtings folks!
thanks for hanging in there and will we see you at New Years?
Happy Trails!
Alice & Dave
Outtings member, are you?
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Postby Ellen » Sun Feb 24, 2008 7:11 pm

Howdy Dana SAR stud :D

Thanks for your wonderful, life-saving work with RMRU 8) You did a great job splinting the fracture. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to see you and Rob :lol:

Thanks so much for your kind words. I owe my life to RMRU, my friends on this board, and my family. I believe that the thoughts and prayers on my behalf helped, especially during the "scary hours."

I look forward to hitting the trails again this summer. At the very least, I'd like to carry a new egg crate mattress up to the San Jacinto bunk bed and breakfast :wink:

Miles of smiles,
Last edited by Ellen on Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Rick M » Sun Feb 24, 2008 7:40 pm

SAR Stud? Perhaps 23 years ago and 20 less pounds lighter. In fact, after filling sand bags and excavating a diversion channel Saturday, I was hoping for R&R that Sunday and a chance to pack for a trip to the Kennedy Space Center for the shuttle launch when I got called for the marine mission. Was really pleased near the top of Skyline that evening to give my pack to another rescuer to carry only to get someone else’s to carry that I could then give to Dana (the SAR guy that later rescued you) who was waiting for me at the top of Skyline.

I wore Koflach plastic double boots on Denali. They worked fine except for skiing back down to lower camps (we would carry a load to our next higher camp then ski back down for the night to acclimatize until we got to 12,000'. After that we went on foot. Our usual procedure was to get up in the morning, warm our boots in our bags while we had breakfast and melted snow for rehydration. We had a five-day storm hit us at 14,500 with -35 temps and then a two day break for a summit bid. When we got to our high camp the two I was with were really tired and I had to pretty much build our snow shelter by myself which was, shall we say, small for three people.

We left all our gear outside (including boots) and in the morning put on these -44 blocks of ice on for the descent with our ill friend. They felt excruciatingly cold for a few minutes but then felt ok. I thought my feet had warmed them but what really happened was they froze my toes. Lower down at about 13,000' our friend was getting better with the increased oxygen but I strangely felt like I had blisters forming on my toes (I thought this because of the 4,000' of downhill). At a rest stop for lunch a quick check of my toes showed no blisters but possible frostbite. At our camp at 9,000' the frostbite was evident. I was still able to walk and ski down the next day to fly out, as the blistering hadn't started. When we flew back to Talkeetna we were considered as possible rescuers to send back up for rescue of three stranded climbers (again, no blisters yet).

I gained about twenty pounds recuperating for four months renting videos and eating ice cream that I just haven’t lost since. The only effects I have now is that when I take an icy dip in a frozen mountain lake nowadays the left big toe screams out loud. Glad that you are able to recover from your injuries.
Rick M
Last edited by Rick M on Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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