Harriet Rowan of Oakland is on the mend after a hiking mishap on Mount Diablo Sunday night landed her in the hospital with a broken ankle. Her rescue captured our attention and the attention of thousands of others as ground and air crews battled encroaching darkness, unforgiving terrain, a pugnacious rattlesnake, high winds… and time – to get her down.
We reported the story via Flash and Twitter Sunday, readers writing about “something going on on the mountain” and “something” turned out to be Harriet.
“I went for a hike on Mt. Diablo on Sunday,” she wrote via Twitter. “I was trying to get a work out so I was ambitious and ended up on the Eagle Peak ridge on my way home. 100 ft after reaching the peak I slipped and broke my ankle…”
Knowing she was in trouble Harriet dialed up 911. It was around 6:15 p.m. and the light was beginning to ebb. A ground crew was dispatched to locate her and render aid while the sheriff’s helicopter was notified of a need for a possible “short haul” rescue off the trail.
“They sent a helicopter to confirm my GPS location but they couldn’t land on the ridge as it was windy and very narrow,” Harriet said. “So I waited on the phone with 911 for the hour it took the first (ground) rescuer to reach me.”
Harriet said that gradually more firefighters made their way up to her, so she had company, but the path was too narrow for them to help carry her out.
“I did my best crawling on my butt with their help for a while to try to make it back to the fire road ( about 1.5 miles) and a vehicle that could take me down. We made it about a mile (or at least thats what they told me) but the last bit of uphill seemed too difficult and another helicopter (Sonoma County’s H1) was on the way, so we stopped to wait.”
(Firefighters waited until she was off the mountain to tell her about the rattlesnake that had taken up position square in the middle of the trail she was skootching down.)
It was nearly 11pm at this point. The Sonoma County crew tried landing but couldn’t, returning a short time later with “a rope guy.”
“He got dropped off, put me in a harness, hooked us together, and then back onto the bottom of a rope hanging from the helicopter, and we flew that way a few minutes to a parking lot at the bottom of the mountain,” Harriet wrote.
Her brother and boyfriend were waiting there and drove her to the Kaiser ER in Oakland where it was confirmed that her ankle was broken. She’s since had surgery and is resting comfortably at home.
She added this note:
“Grateful for all the first responders, our public parks, the ER and OR staff at Kaiser Oakland & extra to my family, boyfriend, roommates, friends and colleagues who have been so kind and helpful. Always weirded out how the worst times show the best in people.”