1 YEAR MT. BALDY AVALANCHE ANNIVERSARY

AVA13

On this date January 26th exactly one year ago (2017) I had one of the closest near death experiences of my life. I nearly lost my life after tumbling 1,000ft down the Mt. Baldy Bowl due to an avalanche. I remember this day like it was yesterday.

I woke up excited to climb the Baldy Bowl for my second time. My buddies Chris and Louis were just as thrilled as I was. We met at Manker Flats Trailhead and double-checked to make sure we had all the right gear before our mountain adventure began. GPS device, helmet, crampons, ice axe and ten essentials checked.

We hiked 2.5 miles through the snow before reaching the Ski Hut that offered amazing views of the surrounding mountains. From this point on was the approach of the south face of Mt. Baldy known as the Bowl. The higher we continued to climb the views were just breathtaking. There wasn’t much more to climb before reaching the ridge of the Bowl. About 200ft shy of it we took a quick break by a huge boulder on the slope. This break gave us a chance to realize how high up and how close to the top we were. We were all so confident and ready to make our final push for the summit. We went for it and things changed real quick!

We felt a sudden change of conditions in the snow as we climbed up the steepest part of the Bowl. The snow became extremely soft and on my next step I felt my feet being pushed downward with great force. Chris yelled,” AVALANCHE”! It all happened so quick with literally a second to make my next move. I quickly self arrested with my ice axe which was definitely not the smartest thing to do. My axe punctured the ice below, held for a split second and all I could tell myself was to brace yourself, hang on tight and get ready for impact. The mighty force of the avalanche rushed toward me and sent me tumbling extremely fast down the mountain. I landed back first on to the ground, legs up and the motion continued. I couldn’t see anything but the inside of my body curled up into a ball while tumbling down the slope. My tumbled stopped as soon as I collided into a boulder. The impact to my right rib cage area literally took my breath away. I then felt snow going over me and everything went dark. Snow was going into my mouth and I thought to myself that very moment, this is how I’m going to die. After my last thought, my body had experienced enough trauma and I went unconscious.

I woke up to the voices of Chris & Louis calling my name as they walked toward me. When my eyes opened I was on my back looking up to the sky and I couldn’t believe I was still alive. I wasn’t buried so that means I had to continue falling after the snow went over me which allowed me to escape that horrible situation it would had been if I stood covered in snow. I knew something was seriously wrong when I tried to get up by lifting my shoulder blades off the ground. I couldn’t get up and felt a sharp pain to the right side of my body and short of breath. Chris took the GPS device out of my pack and hit the SOS button that allowed San Bernardino Search and Rescue (SAR) to locate our coordinates and bring us back to safety and get medical attention. Prior to SAR’s arrival there was three Good Samaritans that helped keep me in good spirits along with Chris & Louis. My buddies had a few minor injuries, bruised bones and stitches but for the most part they would be ok. I definitely got the worst of it.
Finally I was put into a bodysuit called the “Screamer” and airlifted from the mountain. I remember the wind blowing me in circles as I was being hoisted up to the helicopter, which gave me a 360 few of all the nearby peaks including Mt. Baldy. I took it all in and was so grateful to still be alive and thankful for all the heroes that took part in my rescue. I arrived at Arrowhead Regional Hospital Trauma Center where they immediately took x-rays and other tests. My injuries consisted of 2 broken ribs (6th & 7th) and a collapsed lung. The medical team made an incision into the right side of my body and inserted the biggest chest tube ever into my lung. Its purpose was meant to drain the blood from my lung due to the impact of the boulder I collided with during the avalanche that caused internal bleeding.

During my two day stay at the hospital I was overwhelmed with so much love from friends / family. I was signed up for a Spartan Race that weekend that I would no longer be able to attend. All my friends that raced that day came by to visit me, dedicated their medals and delivered tons of boxes of cookies and best of all they reminded me that I wasn’t in this alone. The amount of motivation they gave me to make the strongest comeback ever was a feeling I will always cherish. I was determined to do everything I can to get back on my feet.

I ran and completed L.A. Marathon two months after my accident. It was a painful experience due to my body not being fully recovered. At the same time it ignited a fire within and gave me hope that I could bounce back from this temporary setback. My relationship with Jesus Christ became stronger than ever and I know he spared my life on that horrific day of the avalanche. I’ve climb many mountains since my accident and refused to let fear take over. To name a few are, Mt. Shasta , Mt. Langley, Mt. Whitney and I returned back to Mt. Baldy while there was still snow.

God put me here for a reason and He is not done with me yet. I’ve been blessed with the gift of fitness to help others change their lives and make huge accomplishments. Fitness has changed my life for the better and became my outlet so I know it could serve others just as well. I’m here to contribute and help others exceed their full potential. Thank you Jesus Christ for allowing me see my purpose and giving me the best gift LIFE.
 

Cody Ayala
Avalanche Survivor

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