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.

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Last updated: October 1, 2018

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