Idyllwild resident Jon King was part of an 11-man Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit team that responded to a missing person search in Mt. San Jacinto State Park Wilderness last Sunday.
Fortuitously, the team was already in the area, having camped at Tamarack Valley on Saturday as part of a full weekend of snow-and-ice training, where they were contacted by Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Evan Gawlick, 28, of San Diego, was reported missing by his girlfriend after she received a cell-phone call from the hiker/skier apparently indicating he was in some difficulty on Saturday night. The call came into the sheriff’s department at 11:10 p.m.
Gawlick had only previously visited the area once, and never in winter. He had traveled up on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Saturday morning with a plan to hike to San Jacinto Peak and then to ski back down to the tram the same day.
Three RMRU teams were fanning out across the highest elevations of the state park, with the entire mountain covered in 3 to 4 feet of snow, when the call came through that the subject had walked out and made contact to the north at Snow Creek.
The lost skier had started down the west side of the mountain in the opposite direction from the tramway, presumably having become disoriented when cloud and light snow had rolled in Saturday afternoon. Somehow he had ended up at the Fuller Ridge Trail, and then had seen a sign for the Pacific Crest Trail, which he followed all the way down to Snow Creek.
Fortunately, other than the subject’s navigational difficulties, the deputy who interviewed him at Snow Creek reported that the lost man was relatively well prepared with equipment, and had evidently survived Saturday night reasonably comfortably somewhere on the mountain.
The Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team assisted in the search and ultimately in locating Gawlick.
According to the sheriff’s department, as night fell, Gawlick was able to shelter himself under the ledge of a rock and build a fire for warmth. At sunrise, he continued his descent down the trail until he was located. Gawlick was medically evaluated and suffered only minor injuries.
The sheriff’s department would like to remind hiking enthusiasts to carry proper equipment for any outdoor excursion. Proper preparedness includes a well-thought-out travel plan shared with friends and family, as well as familiarity with common hiking equipment, such as GPS, maps and compasses. RMRU offers several helpful, lifesaving tips at its website (www.rmru.org). Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Cabazon Sheriff’s Station at 951-922-7100.
RMRU member Jon King contributed to this story, which was from a sheriff’s press release.