Snow Creek – Missing Hikers

October 23 – 24, 2021 ,
PCT Snow Creek Trailhead, CA.

Written by Matt Frenken

At approximately 2230 hours on 10/23, a callout was initiated via Mission Manager for members to respond to the Pacific Crest Trail Snow Creek trailhead in Whitewater, California for three missing hikers who were last heard from at 1545 hours that afternoon.

Members from Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) and Desert Search and Rescue (DSAR) responded to the trailhead and received updated information that three individuals from the San Diego area were hiking in the area and a Personal Location Device (PLD) was activated at 1545 hours with GPS coordinates. Riverside Sheriff’s department located a vehicle still in the area belonging to one of the missing hikers. A text message with GPS coordinates was also received by the father of one of the missing hikers and was provided to the search teams.

At approximately 0045 hours four members from DSAR and RMRU started hiking up the trailhead towards the last reported location of the PLD. At approximately 0245 hours, DSAR returned to the trailhead in case medical equipment was required. RMRU continued on towards the last known location of the PLD.

At 0300 hours, RMRU members left the trail and began travelling off trail down a steep ravine. After multiple callouts for the missing hikers, a verbal contact was made at 0315 hours. The four RMRU members split into teams of two, with two proceeding down towards the missing hikers and two remaining above to conduct a radio relay due to the terrain. Physical contact was established around 0330 hours where RMRU was able to find two tired and cold adult males fitting the description of the missing hikers. It was discovered that there was not a third member of the party as they had decided not to go on the hike. The two male subjects were not injured and were able to walk unassisted. Due to the unknown terrain in the west fork of Snow Creek, it was decided to bring the missing hikers back up the ravine to the Pacific Crest Trail and hike back to the trailhead. At approximately 0400 hours,

RMRU and subject were back on the PCT and after a quick food and water check began the return to the trailhead.

At approximately 0615 hours all parties had returned and were at the trailhead. The subjects gave a statement to deputies on scene and were released. All members debriefed and logged out of the mission by 0621 hours.
Takeaway: The subjects were travelling off trail in an attempt to reach some peak in the area, upon their return and with light fading; they were unable to find the trail to return to their vehicles. At this time they activated a Personal Location Device to call for help and they stayed put and did not attempt to self-rescue. This allowed RMRU Team Members to safely locate all parties and return them unharmed to their vehicles.

RMRU Members Involved:
Vinay Rao, Shawn Dennstedt, Matt Frenken, Thomas Blanke