Skyline Hiker Overdue.

April 26, 2020
Near San Jacinto Peak

Written by Tyler Shumway.

RMRU received another callout Sunday night at 7:30 pm. Our 3rd in three days. This time for a lost hiker near Wellman’s Divide. The hiker was reported overdue by a family member and that he was attempting Cactus to Clouds. Star-9 flew the area and was able to locate him off-trail just north of where Sid Davis links up with the Peak Trail at 10,000 feet. He had a small fire going and was wrapped up in a space blanket.

Cameron and I reported to Hemet Ryan Airport. Pilot Eric Bashta and Technical Flight Officer Jerry Osterloh with Riverside Sheriff Aviation briefed us that we would be inserted at Round Valley and hike up to the subject. We were to secure the subject and attempt to hike him back down to Round Valley where we would be picked up.

After being inserted at Round Valley, Cameron and I put on snowshoes since we started post-holing immediately. Temperatures were mild in the upper 40s low 50s. We made a direct ascent to Wellman’s Divide and then took the Peak Trail. We made it to the subject in under an hour and once he saw our headlamps, he started hiking towards us. It was apparent that he was not suffering from any injuries. Communication was difficult due to the language barrier, but we were able to give him food, water and warm clothing. Cameron outfitted him with micro-spikes and trekking poles that had baskets.

He was ready to go as soon as we gave him water and gear so down, we went taking the Sid Davis drainage towards Round Valley. We anticipated a long hike down due to post-holing, but our snowshoe tracks proved efficient enough for us to make it down in 35 minutes. Upon arriving at Round Valley Star-9 flew in and loaded up the subject where he would be taken to Banning Airport to awaiting family members. Star-9 returned for Cameron and I and flew us back to Hemet Ryan.

Star9 Landing in Round Valley at Night
Image by Tyler Shumway

Subjects Plan: Solo hiker was attempting Cactus to Clouds which is a grueling hike from the desert floor to San Jacinto Peak. Due to the language barrier, it was unclear if he had made it to the peak and if his plan were to return down the Skyline Trail or continue into Idyllwild. He kept mentioning the PCT so perhaps he was planning a decent that way. Regardless, he was off trail in deep snow at 10,000 feet without proper gear to deal with the conditions. He had made a small fire to keep warm and wrapped himself in an emergency mylar blanket.

Lessons Learned: Despite the warm temperatures there is still plenty of snow in the upper elevations. Proper footwear and equipment are still recommended in the high country especially off-trail due to soft melting snow. The east side of the mountain has had little travel since the temporary closure of the Tram. Cautious navigation is advised.

Thank you again to the Riverside Sheriffs Aviation Unit for another safe and successful mission.

RMRU Members Involved: Cameron Dickinson and Tyler Shumway.