Last week, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) volunteers rescued two hikers lost at the 6,200-foot level east of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The hikers from the Vancouver, Canada area, both in their 40s, had set out from the desert floor on the Skyline Trail. Even with snow visible on the mountain’s upper reaches, the two were lightly dressed and unprepared for the cold temperatures and snow they encountered at higher elevations.
According to a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) press release, the two became disoriented and left the trail as nightfall set in on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
RCSD first activated deputies and an aviation unit around 5:45 p.m. according to an RCSD press release then dispatched RMRU around 7 p.m., according to RMRU volunteer Lee Arnson.
The RCSD helicopter unit spotted the couple around 9:50 p.m. but could neither land nor deploy a rescue crew because of the steep terrain and strong winds. The helicopter crew directed the RMRU ground team to the couple. The ground team reached the hikers at midnight, according to Arnson.
He noted the hikers were clothed in shorts and T-shirts, and had only a small daypack with them. RMRU provided the hikers food, water and warm clothing and began hiking them down to the 2,500-foot level, Arnson said, where they bedded down awaiting helicopter pickup.
By 10:30 a.m., according to RCSD, both hikers were safely airlifted off the mountain. They refused medical treatment.
Les Walker and Helene Lohr, Idyllwild locals, participated in the rescue along with Arnson.
In a separate, but similar, incident in which RMRU assisted, a man and his 9-year-old stepson got disoriented and then lost on the Guadalupe Trail, south of the La Quinta Cove, as night was falling on Sunday, Jan. 30. They also were wearing light clothing and were not equipped for an overnight hike or cold weather conditions. A helicopter unit spotted the two at 11:57 p.m. at the 4,200-foot level near the trail. The helicopter was unable to land, so rescuers had to be lowered to the hikers to assist in loading them into the helicopter. They were subsequently airlifted out, declined medical treatment, and were returned to their vehicle.
RCSD reminds all hikers to be prepared for weather changes in the San Jacinto Mountains and to hike properly equipped.