Missing Skyline Hiker

February 07, 2021
Long Valley, Upper Tramway

Written by Pete Carlson.

At 5am the call comes that a female hiker has been reported overdue on a hiker up the Skyline Trail from Palm Springs and then heading over to Idyllwild. We are to meet at Keenwild Forest Service Helipad and will be flown into different points on the mountain to search. As everyone arrives at base assignments are made and the order of flying in is set up.

First in will be Tyler and James, they will search from the air first flying the whole Skyline Trail and then be put into Long Valley at the Upper Tramway. NOTE: The Tramway is closed due to COVID-19. Once in they will check Long Valley area quickly and then begin descending the Skyline Trail looking for tracks and yelling trying to make contact.

Next in are Cameron and Rob who will be put in on the Skyline Trail around snow line and begin by going up to the snow line and looking for tracks. If they find none they will start down the Skyline.

Then Beth and I go into Long Valley and will start hiking up to Round Valley and Wellman’s Divide. As we land and get out of the helicopter, we see James waving at us and then see Tyler with someone else. We quickly realize it is the subject. We turn around and signal the helicopter to stay put. James goes up and tells the pilot that we have the subject. Tyler and the overdue hike get into the helicopter to be taken back to base.

It turns out that Tyler had checked the Ranger Station and bathrooms in case the subject was over there. As he was coming back to meet James and start down the Skyline Trail, he saw someone walking towards him, it was the missing female hiker. She had a hard time getting up the last icy section of the Skyline to Long Valley. Then as she tried to hike to Idyllwild via the Willow Creek Trail, she found she was post holing up to her knees in soft snow. She was wearing tennis shoes.

She found some plastic bags and put then over her socks and up her legs to try and keep dry. After getting part way down to Willow Creek she realized she could not make it and headed back to Long Valley. She spent the night around Hidden Lake, and in the morning heard the Helicopter and headed back to Long Valley.

We had two more teams ready to go, one to come into Long Valley and hike the Willow Creek Trail to Idyllwild and another to go into Skunk Cabbage Meadow and head down towards Caramba. After Tyler and the Subject were in base, next pick up was Cameron and Rob. Then I was flown out as a single load and last James and Beth got flown out.
Again, this mission was caused by someone not understanding the winter condition when doing the Skyline Trail. You must have at least Micro-Spikes and know how to use them. And for the top soft snow, tennis shoes will not really work. With the Tramway closed there were no tracks in Long Valley or going out any of the trails, so anyone going up there must know how to navigate and find the trails buried in snow. You must be in top condition hike up the Skyline and then to post hole through deep snow.

Rescuers at base, Subject front row second from right.
Image by RSO CERT member.

RMRU Members Involved: Tom Blanke, Coby Brown, Pete Carlson, Cameron Dickinson, Kaitlyn Ellison, James Eckhardt, Glenn Henderson, Eric Holden, Beth Jeffery, Rob Newton, Tyler Shumway, and Becky Templeton.