Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds) Missing Hiker
July 17-18, 2022
Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds)
Written by: Eric Holden
At 1600 we got a callout for an overdue hiker who was hiking the Cactus to Clouds trail. He had left on the 16th from the museum trailhead at 0600 and had not checked by the next day. Temperatures were in around 115 degrees for the last few days in Palm Springs. We all met at the lower tramway station, and it was decided that James, Steve, and 2 state park volunteers would ride the tram and hike from Grubbs notch, all the way to the desert floor in case he was near the top. Shani and I would start from the museum and hike as far as we felt it was safe to do so, and Glenn would run base. We located the subject’s car at the museum to confirm he was still on the mountain and by the time we started hiking it was 2000 and the temperatures had dropped to 105. Shani and I hiked up to about the 2000ft elevation marker with no sign of the subject before making our extremely hot return to the museum. At midnight it was still 98 degrees outside.
James and Steve, along with two start parks volunteers made the 8000ft elevation loss and the 11-mile trip. Along the way they discovered an article of clothing, which would later be confirmed to be the subjects, around 3000ft of elevation. Unfortunately, they were also too physically exhausted from the heat and hiking conditions to do an extensive off trail search of the area. They made it back to the museum around 0400 hours and a callout was made for additional resources to meet at the museum at 0600.
The plan for the day was to insert field members near the article of clothing and begin a search. Vinay, Richard, DSSAR, and Palm Springs SAR members were all inserted via a Helicopter hover step while Coby and I staffed base. Due to the over 100-degree heat, searching was limited for only a few hours and members had to be extracted due to safety concerns. After all members were out of the field Star 9 aviation flew the area a few more times and located the subject. A rescue technician was lowered to the subject and unfortunately he was found deceased. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.
RMRU would like to remind the public that Skyline(C2C) is one of most difficult hikes in the country. That combined with the high heat make for a very deadly combination. The most common mistake hikers make is thinking they can turn around if they start to feel tired or too hot. Unfortunately, once you start the return hike the temperatures only get hotter as you descend. With an air temperature of 115 the ground temperature can be easily over 130-degrees from baking in the sun all day. We highly recommend that if you plan on hiking Skyline/C2C, that you do it in late fall before the first snow and bring at least 5 liters of water. There is no water anywhere along the trail and the cooler temperatures make for a much more pleasant hike.
RMRU Members Involved: (Coby Brown, James Eckhardt, Glenn Henderson, Eric Holden, Shani McCullough, Vinay Rao, Steven Rider, Richard Yocum)
Other Agencies Involved: (RSO – Rescue 9/Star-9, DSSAR, Palm Springs SAR)