Lost Hikers Round Valley
May 5, 2022
Tamarack Valley Area
Written by: Blake Douglas
On the evening of Thursday, May 5, the team was notified that Riverside Sheriff’s Office Aviation was attempting a hoist rescue in the Tamarack area of the San Jacinto high country. Due to turbulence, the hoist attempt was soon aborted, and RMRU was cleared to proceed with a ground team response. Our subjects were off-trail and lost, but uninjured. The coordinates provided by Rescue 9 placed them at 9500′ elevation, on the slopes between the Wellman Trail and the Tamarack Valley campground, just south of an unnamed use trail informally referred to as “the Ranger Route”, the “Mountaineer’s Trail”, “Sid Davis West”, or other such variations. This route is a more direct path to the summit in winter and saves over a mile compared to following the standard tram-to-peak trails that take you to Wellman’s Divide first. Unfortunately, it is still sufficiently indistinct that persons without backcountry navigation experience will find it difficult to follow, particularly after new snow or high winds (when team member Caleb Milner and I descended this route in March, we found the tracks wiped out due to snowdrift on approximately half of this section).
James and I responded to the Palm Springs Tram, followed soon after by Matt, Beth, and Richard. James and I set out immediately and made it to our subject’s coordinates just after nightfall. They were on a rocky prominence, thankfully having stayed put per directions from Rescue 9. They were experienced hikers, but in this case, the victims of unfortunate circumstance – a recent backpack swap had left them with only one headlamp, which had accidentally been left on for hours due to something in the pack pressing on the battery switch. They had become aware that the day was getting late as they descended from the San Jacinto Peak and were confused when they reached the junction of the informal trail with the main one. They chose the informal trail, but then lost it, and were not confident that their off-trail skills were sufficient to either continue descending or retrace their steps back to the main trail.
Fortunately getting them to the informal trail was a matter of only a few minutes’ inconvenience mixed terrain with some lingering snow, followed by a simple and uneventful hike on the established trails back to the tram. We reached the tram around 11:45pm, which was graciously left open by tram staff, and we were able to ride down promptly, concluding the mission around 12:30am..
RMRU Members Involved: (Blake Douglas, James Echkardt, Matt Frenken, Beth Jeffery, Steven Rider, and Richard Yocum)