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Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 6:12 pm | Light Rain 54º


Three UCSB Students Rescued from Cliff Below Cathedral Peak

County Search and Rescue Team uses technical expertise to save the stranded hikers

The Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Team rescued three UCSB students over the weekend who became stranded while hiking on a cliff below Cathedral Peak.

Sheriff’s department spokesman Drew Sugars said the male hikers departed about noon Saturday from the top of Tunnel Road to hike up a technically difficult trail to Cathedral Peak, located below La Cumbre Peak.

They reached Cathedral Peak after 3 p.m., then started to hike back down the mountain. But the hikers missed a key turn amid heavy fog and wandered off the trail down toward Inspiration Point, requiring them to climb down vertical cliffs, Sugars said.

At one point, the hikers slid down a 50-foot chute between the cliffs and then could go no farther because of the drop-off below them and lack of light after sunset. The hikers had cellular reception and called 9-1-1.

Sugars said that members of the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s all-volunteer Search and Rescue Team’s Mountain Rescue Unit used the GPS coordinates from the hikers’ cell phone to locate and assist the stranded hikers.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Copter 2 also was deployed to aid in the search. The team used night-vision equipment to pinpoint the glow from the hikers’ cell phone and to direct the ground SAR units up the recently burned mountains. The fog and steepness of the cliffs prevented the possibility of utilizing helicopter hoists.

After five hours of climbing up steep mountains and cliffs, a three-member SAR team traversed along a cliff ledge to about 50 feet below the hikers. One of the rescuers then climbed up the small ledge to the hikers, who were given food, water and clothing to help get warm, Sugars said.

The rescuers set up rope anchors and rigged improvised harnesses to lower each of the three hikers down the cliff in an operation that took nearly 90 minutes. The hikers were then helped down the mountain and back to their car on Tunnel Road. 

SBCSAR Team President Jennifer Beyer praised the hikers and SAR team members for the positive outcome of this incident.

“As a mountain rescue team, this is what we trained for and can provide to the citizens of our community that no other organization can,” she said.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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