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Video: Woman Rescued From Harrowing Devil's Backbone Trail

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A dramatic rescue occurred on the Devil's Backbone Trail on Mount Baldy on Monday, after a woman slid down the trail and clung to the side of the mountain using an ice axe.

The woman, who is 34 but whose identity has not been released, was hiking with her brother along the Devil's Backbone Trail on Monday afternoon, KTLA reports. According to authorities, the pair were at 9,200 feet when the woman slid 50 feet off the trail. She was able to jam an ice axe into the side of the mountain, which held her fast while her brother called 9-1-1. The woman was successfully rescued via a San Bernardino County Sheriff's helicopter. She was not significantly injured.

The Devil's Backbone is a narrow trial that rises up like a spine, hence the name. Authorities are asking the public to avoid this trail unless they are expert hikers. Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department described the trail to LAist.

"The Devils' Backbone is one of the approaches to the peak of Mount Baldy. It is a very narrow trail at points; it's about 12 inches wide with sheer drop-offs on either side that are in the hundreds of feet. If you go up to the north face, it's probably about a 1,500-foot drop," he said.

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While an advanced, yet scenic trail in warmer months, the winter poses significant challenges.

"One of the issues we do encounter are people who travel in the summertime and come back in the winter months to travel the same trail. It's a very different trail in the winter. In the summertime, the trail is exposed and you know where it's at. As soon as we start building snow, the trail becomes less defined. You take a step and it's not the trail, just a collection of slush," he said.


The Devil's Backbone in the summer (Photo by puck90 via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
Temperatures in the winter can also fall into the teens or single digits, Sherwin said, and combined with the wind-chill, you're looking at possible subzero temps when approaching the 10,000-foot summit.

Last February, a 45-year-old hiker was killed after falling 1,500 feet near the same trail.

The harrowing rescue was caught on camera by Captain Paramedic Eric Spies, who had a camera strapped to his chest. You can hear Spies telling the hiker to remove her backpack, ditch the ice axe, and hug him as tight as she can.

It was a complicated rescue. Wind whipped at 45 mph, making it difficult for the helicopter to remain steady. "She was very thankful for what we were able to do for her," Spies told CBS Los Angeles.

The rescue team is a combination of Sheriff's aviation units and County fire paramedics, who have been cross-trained for numerous missions. Sherwin says they can do everything from simple medical evacuations to fire suppression and technical rescue. They are trained to perform in the desert on days when temperatures have soared over 100 degrees, and to enact rescues like this one in subzero temperatures and hostile environments.