Women killed by falling rocks climbing California's Red Slate Mountain

Chris Riotta
Treacherous conditions meant rescuers had to be airlifted from the scene: AP

The bodies of two women who were killed by falling rocks while climbing a narrow portion of California's Red Slate Mountain have been recovered.

Jennifer Shedden, 34, and 22-year-old Michelle Xue, never returned from a narrow and icy portion of the mountain after embarking on the trek during the final weekend of October.

Their bodies were later discovered still hooked into the ice by a search-and-rescue team earlier this week.

Poor weather conditions hampered efforts to recover the bodies, leading to a three-day retrieval effort.

“It appeared that the women, though very prepared and well-equipped were struck by [a] large rock fall event,” the rescuers said in a statement.

The Mono County Sheriff’s Office said rescuers climbed nearly 1,100 feet to the women, facing “active rock fall from the terrain above”.

At one point “discharging rocks” that forced them to turn around.

The rescuers, who were airlifted by a National Guard helicopter to the base of the region where the women were found, were unable to retrieve the bodies themselves due to the weather, rock fall and loss of sunlight.

Various agencies deployed rescue teams in multiple attempts to recover the women, from Mono County Search and Rescue to the California Highway patrol.

The retrieval effort ended when a Yosemite Search and Rescue helicopter managed to place two rescuers onto the ice sheet who were able to recover the bodies, the Record-Courier newspaper reported,

Ms Xue was reportedly an experienced climber who was the safety captain of her school’s rock climbing team at Georgetown University.

Ms Shedden was an associate engineer for the town of Mammoth Lakes. Both women were from California.

“The Mono County Sheriff’s Office holds Jennifer, Michelle and their families and friends in our hearts and thoughts during this difficult time,” it said in a statement.

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