Hikers Spent Three Days Trapped in California Backcountry During a Storm

by Taylor Cunningham
Smoggy valley with sunset

Two hikers spent three days trapped in the California backcountry after they wandered off trail ahead of a major storm.

According to the Yucaipa Police Department, a 42-year-old from Los Angeles and a 39-year-old from Colorado embarked on a days-long backpacking trip in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on Nov. 5. On the second day, an incoming storm disoriented them and caused them to veer away from the path and into a steep canyon.

One of the hikers injured their foot while traversing the canyon, and the two couldn’t continue. So they set up a tent and used an In-Reach Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to call for help. The sheriff’s dispatch got the call around 3 pm on Nov. 7.

A rescue team headed out at 5:50 pm. But they didn’t reach the hikers until 11:36 pm because of “treacherous terrain, rain storm, and near-freezing temperatures.”

Snow and Ice Forced the Hikers and Their Rescuers to Shelter in Place

Once the team was on the scene, the weather had become even more dangerous. And they couldn’t airlift the two from the canyon. Two other teams deployed to help, but they couldn’t reach the canyon. So the victims and the rescuers from the original team were forced to stay until the rain and snow passed.

“The storm began to subside the morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2022. And Sheriff’s helicopters made multiple attempts to reach the victims but were unable to due to the remaining cloud cover,” the release shared. “Additional personnel was requested from across southern California. And more than 25 alpine rescue personnel responded from San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Teams.” 

There was finally a break in the clouds during the night of Nov. 9. At 6:30 am the following morning, a helicopter from the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office finally reached the area and pulled the hikers and rescuers from the canyon.

“They conducted numerous separate hoist operations to rescue the victims and extract the three RMRU members who spent the last 30 hours of the storm with the victims,” it continued. “The last of the rescuers were off the mountain at 10:06 am.”

The police department did not share if either of the victims or the rescuers who sheltered in place with them were injured.

The San Gorgonio Wilderness is located on the eastern slope of the San Bernardino Mountain range and can be a rugged trek with steep inclines and elevation ranges from 2,300 to 5,500 feet. While hiking, people can see desert, coastal, and mountain environments.