Lost Near Lost Lake

October 01, 2018 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Panorama showing Half Dome and the low area south of Half Dome
Half Dome and the Lost Lake area.
While descending from Half Dome, staying on the trail between the subdome and Little Yosemite Valley can prove to be challenging in open sandy areas where the switchbacks are not well defined. It is not uncommon for Yosemite Search and Rescue to respond to reports of lost Half Dome hikers in this area. On the evening of July 11, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) was notified of a Half Dome hiker who had become lost while descending from Half Dome. The subject had hiked with a group from the Sunrise Lakes area to Half Dome and had become separated from the group when he decided to turn around before summiting Half Dome. Rescuers suspect that the subject missed a switchback while descending the trail from Half Dome to the John Muir Trail and continued downhill off-trail. “Once he realized he was lost, he didn’t know which way was back to the trail,” stated one of the rescuers.

The subject was found a few miles from Little Yosemite Valley, not far from a social trail that leads to climbing routes on Half Dome. The subject was ill-equipped to spend the night out with no shelter, food, water, headlamp, map, or warm layers of clothing. Also, the subject was not carrying his prescribed medication with him, making it challenging for rescuers to manage his medical conditions.

Rescuers hiked the subject back to the ranger station at Little Yosemite Valley and monitored him overnight, taking vitals each hour and developing a care plan with the park’s medical director and the incident commander. In the morning, the incident commander, under the advisement of the medical director, decided to fly the subject from Little Yosemite Valleyto Ahwahnee Meadow in Yosemite Valley, where he could be transferred to an awaiting ambulance.

Lessons Learned

Recreating with medical conditions: Medical conditions should not prevent recreationists from enjoying Yosemite’s vast wilderness; however, proper management of medical conditions is essential for a successful wilderness experience. Whether hiking in a party of two or ten, it is important for fellow hiking companions to be aware of medical conditions in the group and proper treatment and management of medical conditions. Recreationists who are prescribed medication should carry the medication (plus a few extra doses) in a personal pack so that they don’t miss a dose if an outdoor outing goes awry or longer than anticipated.  

Hiking preparedness: When preparing for a long day hike, pack extra food, water, and if possible, a water filter. Check the weather before leaving and pack extra layers and a rain jacket even if the forecast calls for warm temperatures and clear sunny skies. Consider carrying a map and compass whether hiking on familiar or new trails. Always pack a headlamp, even if you plan on ending your hike well before dark.

Hiking in a group: The Yosemite Emergency Communications Center frequently receives calls from separated parties, which usually result when groups did not make a plan for where and when to meet in the event they became separated. Fortunately, many of these incidents self-resolve; however, a few become search and rescue incidents when the separated parties fail to reunite. When hiking in a group, be sure to account for all members of the group while hiking and develop a plan with group members before separating from the group.

yosemite national park, yosemite, search and rescue

5 Comments Comments icon

  1. Paul
    December 02, 2019 at 01:07

    In late August[26} of 2016 six of us left early 6::00 am from the Mist Trail with permits hiking to Half Dome and back. All went well, some were faster hikers than others, I was the last to reach the sub dome, at approx 12:30.p.m. Some of our group did not climb the cables, I did and was back down by 1:30. Some of our group {3]started back down, I was with 2 other friends, they wanted to start down, I said go ahead , I'll catch up. I wanted to spend a little more time the base.I started off shortly, down to the subdome, to the sandy area, trees, and the trail. Four other hikers who I had seen on the cables were ahead of me, and were questioning each other and me as to where the trail was. Myself and one of their group went off to the left,[East] and I thought I saw what looked like the {a} trail, just then we heard the other fellows friend say "the trail is over here". The fellow who was with me took off running to catch up and I was standing there, looking down at trees, shrubs, and real no sign of a trail, yet, I decided that what I was viewing would lead me to the main trail,{a short cut}. Well, it turned out to be and "all nighter" on the backside of Half Dome. The downhill trail was never a trail. After a downhill traverse it leveled out into manzanita, brambles, and rocky going. My sense of direction told me the valley floor was to my right, so ,that was the my direction.I did find so "ducts",stacked rocks,that encouraged me, thinking that I was on a travelled trail. But that was not the case.Soon it was starting to get dark and I realized that I was not going to make it back to the Valley floor that night, I need to find a place to spend the night I hiked a little bit back up the way I had come down, and found a relatively flat, sandy,smooth spot to spend the night: without water, only a lighweight long sleeved T shirt, in my shorts, a half of a sandwich and a small amount of brandy in a flask. I was so dry, I couldn't eat the sandwich, I didn't want to drink the brandy

  2. Brianna
    February 19, 2019 at 04:13

    Nice lesson btw

  3. Art
    October 31, 2018 at 11:51

    35 years ago, as a naive young hiker, I got lost in this same area coming down from Half Dome. It was late afternoon and my brother and I realized we had lost the trail. Tired from hiking all day and not carrying a map & compass some panic started to set in. Will we need to spend the night out here? We had no additional clothing, water or food. Luckily after zig-zagging back and forth for 90 minutes, we ran into another hiker who showed us the right direction. Arriving back in the Valley was our worried family. The cheeseburger and cola were the best I have ever tasted then and since. Ater this incident I learned to use a map & compass and always carry at least the essentials. It is important to plan for the worst and be prepared. 10 years ago on a 15-mile hike near Cathedral Peak, the weather changed dramatically from a 55 degree, sunny day to 45-degree downpour. Well, we took out our rain gear (some in our group had none and unprepared) and shared some extras we had with the group. We had some food, water, water filter, fire starter, hiking boots and layers of clothing. After a couple of hours, we were back safe with the unprepared in our group shivering. This could have turned out tragically if most of us had not been as well prepared.

  4. Brian Johnson
    October 10, 2018 at 03:17

    Nice report PSAR. I know you always have our backs out there.

  5. Pete
    October 10, 2018 at 05:08

    With my old hiking club, a person led a class 4 peak trip, taking people who have no idea of how to backcountry navigate. Refusing then to do the climb, one was sent off without both a map and compass, in the times before even GPS technology. Lost promptly then, they noticed her missing from their camp, so rushed off to get a rescue started. Luckily a helicopter found her, and picked her up to be transported to the trailhead. The trip leader got an award from the hiking club. The way to do it?

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Last updated: October 1, 2018

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