Firefighters, deputies and a helicopter crew rescued two teens who walked off the Bump-n-Grind Trail outside Palm Desert and ended up trapped in cold darkness on a jagged rock outcropping, authorities said Saturday.
One teen suffered a broken ankle, the other was not injured. But they were both fortunate rescuers got them out Friday night before temperatures dropped to near freezing, said Cal Fire-Riverside County Capt. Justin Scribner.
A third hiker who was with the pair, identified as a young woman, managed to walk out on her own, according to fire and sheriff's officials.
"It was already dark and it was getting cold," said Scribner, who led a team of nine firefighters on foot, laden with climbing hardware and a rescue basket.
"They were a couple of teens who didn't have outdoor gear, but they did have a cell phone and a lighter," Scribner said. "That's how they got in touch with us, and that's how we found them."
Scribner and his team started walking in to the remote desert mountain area about 5:30 p.m., after sundown, as the temperature began to fall towards the low 30s, Scribner said.
"They had gone off trail, free-lance hiking, and slipped on rocks," Scribner said. "It was about 1,500 feet elevation, well below the snow level. They were on some of that decomposed rock out there. We were slipping on it too."
Scribner and his team walked in the dark for an hour before the rescue chopper joined the effort. A pilot and flight officer on a helicopter called Star 92 out of Hemet-Ryan managed to lower a rescuer in, and hoisted the injured teen out first, Scribner said.
The injured teen was flown to a Palm Springs hospital by 7 p.m., according to Cal Fire-Riverside County spokeswoman Cheri Patterson. The second hiker was safely aboard the helicopter by 7:20 p.m., according to Patterson.
Overnight lows in the Santa Rosa Mountains south of Palm Desert dropped to freezing level, National Weather Service meteorologist James Oh said in a phone interview.
The popular Bump-n-Grind Trail begins on Painters Path just west of state Route 111 in Palm Desert. Known by several names, including "Patton's Trail," it may have been used for training by U.S. Army troops training for World War II under General George S. Patton.