A New Year's Day hike on Mount Shasta went terribly wrong when three climbers from the Sacramento area lost their footing and triggered a rockslide that caused them to fall. All of them were injured and stranded in the steep rugged terrain.
Despite being injured, one of the hikers managed to call 911.
Crews with the U.S. Forest Service were able to get a ranger on the ground to locate the three hikers.
"When they called us, they were very scared, asking for us to get up there quickly," California Highway Patrol Pilot Officer Steve Weyand said.
Weyand was with the rescue team that first reached the hikers trapped at an elevation of 11,500 feet; the team arrived about 30 minutes after getting the call.
Olsya Karniayenka, 20, of Sacramento was found in critical condition after taking a major fall. The other two hikers sustained minor injuries when they fell trying to save their friend. Karniayenka and 22-year-old Vitalie Slivca had to be hoisted out of the rockslide and flown to a hospital.
"This party was very inexperienced mountaineers and they didn't have the proper equipment to really be up there," Weyand said.
Karniayenka is recovering at Mercy Medical Center in Redding where her condition has improved from critical to fair. The other two hikers have been released from the hospital.
The dry conditions made hiking and rescue operations extremely dangerous, Weyand said.
"The mountain literally is crumbling," Weyand explained. "So what was a challenge for us this time was getting the aircraft into position and trying not to knock any more boulders down onto the victims."
Emergency crews said the hikers are lucky to start the New Year alive.
"It's just really heartbreaking," Karniayenka's friend Larisa Kurdhelo said.
Several of Karniayenka's friends gathered Thursday night at Bethany Slavic Missionary Church where she's involved with the youth group. They hope for her speedy recovery.
"We're going to be praying for her to come back to church," Kurdhelo said.
by Carlos Saucedo, CSaucedo@news10.net