Early Monday morning, April 12, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) volunteers retrieved Air Force Major Robert Wilson, 44, from the west side of Black Mountain, in what RMRU volunteer Les Walker describes as “probably the most harrowing and challenging rescue I’ve been involved in.”
Four RMRU Idyllwild residents — Walker, RMRU President Lee Arnson, Chad Marler and Chuck Springer responded to a call at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, April 11 to locate a lost day hiker. “We were not able to get him out until 6:30 a.m. Monday morning,” said Walker. “He had gotten off trail and weather conditions had badly deteriorated. We had 40 M.P.H. wind gusts and sideways sleet and hail sticking to us. Because of weather conditions, with wind and fog, it wasn’t possible to get a helicopter in [for rescue assist].” A helicopter had, prior to conditions deteriorating, spotted Wilson.
Arnson echoed Walker’s impression of the mission. “It was the hardest physical mission I’ve ever been on in my life,” he said. “It took us 10 hours to go three miles. It was the worst terrain and the worst weather, an absolute nightmare of a mission. I firmly believe he would have died had we not gotten him out. We and the subject were all hypothermic at the end. They wanted us to go to the hospital as well, but we refused. It was a great mission, hard, strenuous, dangerous. I’ll never forget this one.”
After rescue, Wilson was transported to a local hospital for treatment of exposure.