Established 1958

The China Lake Mountain Rescue Group is an on-call, all-volunteer, non-profit organization providing search and rescue services. CLMRG is hosted by the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, CA and responds to the Kern County Sheriff Office's rescue coordinator. We are accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association in technical and high-risk terrain rescues, but also serve in river and urban rescue. The primary mission of the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group is search and rescue of lost or injured persons in any season of the year in mountains, deserts or in any type of wilderness terrain. Our primary area of response is Kern County and the Eastern Sierra of Inyo and Mono Counties in California, but we will respond any place in the world as needed. CLMRG's secondary mission is to provide wilderness safety education to the community from school room lessons to overnight summer trips. 

CLMRG was formed in 1958 by a small group of adventures looking to give something to the community in the best way they knew. Then known as Naval Ordnance Test Station Search and Rescue (NOTSAR), the founding members would get called out by anyone able to get a hold of them. They would later become recognized as an expert and reliable group of rescue mountaineers by the Kern County Sheriff's Office and world renowned for rescues in every environment in any weather to include location in New York, South America, and Asia. 

Our story starts in the 1950’s with the Occasional Peaks Gang. The Occasional Peaks Gang had about 8-10 people in it, of which Carl Heller was the Leader. During this time there were no organized Search  and Rescue Teams in the Southern Sierra. Also during the 1950’s it became more popular to head out  into the mountains. With more people heading into the mountains, there was more opportunity for  something to go wrong and potentially need to be rescued. As is the case now, it was also true then, the  Sheriff is responsible for Search and Rescue in their county.
The Inyo County Sheriff contacted Carl and asked him if he would form a Search and Rescue Team to  assist them when they needed SAR in their county. The process actually started in 1956. There were lots  of steps that had to be taken. They had to learn search and rescue skills, first aid, how to handle stressful situations, organizational skills, and working together as a team.  Once they felt they had everything ready, there were nine willing technical mountaineers. Carl Heller, Kermith Ross, Ray Van Aken, Jim Bray, Russell Huse, Virgil Lewis, Richard Breitenstein, John Ohl, and Richard Slates.
It was not long before we were being looked to by the local Kern County Sheriffs for rescues all over the county and even other agencies to cover the country and the globe. In the 1960's, not wanting to be confused with affiliation with the Navy, we choose a name more fitting to our style of rescue. We also incorperated into the State of California as a 501(c)(3) non-profit public service.  

The CLMRG trains year round in a variety of search and rescue skills. Our current capabilities include general mountaineering and wilderness survival skills, high-angle rock, ice and snow rescue, step-by-step man-tracking, Wilderness first-aid, swift water rescue, helicopter procedures, and SAR management using the Incident Command System. We are accredited for high angle terrain through the Mountain Rescue Association which we joined in 1961. In 1963, the California Region of the MRA was formed, largely due to Carl’s leadership. The first meeting of the CRMRA was held in Ridgecrest. 

Many of our members are highly experienced mountaineers with knowledge of wilderness and glacier travel and crevasse rescue. Most of our experience is in the Sierra Nevada, but many members have experience in other mountain ranges as well, such as the Cascades and Rockies. Several members have summited Denali, and other high peaks around the world.

  • In 1969 the Rescue Group responded to a search for a missing climber in Baja California
  • In 1971 the Rescue Group responded to a search for a lost child in Adirondacks, New York
  • In 1975, we had a transit to Alamo Lake, Arizona
  • In 1976, we had a recovery in Baja California
  • In 1985, we had an alert in Bolivia, South America, this one involved a downed commercial airplane 
  • In 1988, we had an alert in Baja California
  • In 1988, we had a search in Silver Plume, Colorado

Every action of the CLMRG is conducted by 100% volunteers. Everyone pitches in and helps in a variety of ways. All field members are expected to own personal hiking wear and enough equipment to search up to three days in the wilderness. However, some gear is much to costly or to seldomly needed for individuals, thus, we maintain a tight bank account with group funds. These funds are courteously of people like you, the general public looking to keep up a good cause. This includes the United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign. Check out our Donation page to see how you can help. 

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PO Box 2037
Ridgecrest CA, 93556

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In an emergency, call 911