Three Santa Barbara County back country campers are home safe tonight after a week long excursion that was interrupted by heavier than expected rain storms.
On Monday morning, December 20, 2010 a concerned citizen contacted the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office to inform them that his friend and two other campers were in the back country when the deluge began. He said the trio was on a seven day hiking/camping trip, and was not due back until Tuesday, December 21, at the earliest, but he wanted the Sheriff’s Office to be aware that they were still in the back country. He said his 26-year-old male friend was an experienced backpacker, but that the friend’s 25-year-old girlfriend and the friend’s 57-year-old mother were inexperienced.
On Tuesday, December 21, 2010, Sheriff’s personnel assessed the situation. They took into account the experience level of two of the backpackers, the equipment the group had with them, the amount of water that had already fallen, and the weather forecasts predicting even more rain to come. The Sheriff’s Office decided to take advantage of the brief window of opportunity between storms and initiate a Search and Rescue operation before the rivers and streams rose any higher.
Beginning at noon, 13 members of the all volunteer Santa Barbara Search and Rescue Team, Sheriff’s Copter-2 and two Sheriff’s deputies began a search of the backcountry. The trio had been dropped off near Nira Campground and had planned to hike to McKinley Mountain before hiking out at East Camino Cielo. During today’s operation, searchers alerted the host at Upper Osos Campground that the three backpackers may show up today. At approximately 3:30pm this afternoon the host contacted Search and Rescue personnel to inform them that the trio had indeed arrived.
Due to the height of the Santa Ynez River and proximity of Sheriff’s Copter-2, it was decided that the three backpackers would meet the helicopter at Lower Osos Campground which then transported them across the fast moving river. A Search and Rescue team member examined the trio and determined the couple from Santa Cruz and the mother from Santa Barbara were not injured. The friend met the three backpackers at White Rock and drove them back down the mountain between 4:30pm and 5:00pm late this afternoon.