TNSAR Search 07/13/2009

Squaw Valley (Silverado) Hiker Rescue

Long and balmy summer days stir a desire to venture outside and explore surrounding terrain. Though unlike the sleepy lure of the poppy fields in the Wizard of Oz, the penstemon, wall flower and mule’s ear, still in full spring bloom on the back side of Squaw set the stage for and unexpected adventure for a hiker and his dog.

On 7/13/2009 @ 6:30 pm, a Sacramento resident and hiking partner, “Mingus” (the hiker’s friendly black lab/ chow mix) set off on foot from the Squaw Valley parking lot up the Squaw Creek/ Shirley Lake trail for a “easy- moderate” evening hike. With daylight in short supply, the two veered off the trail in an attempt to access the Squaw Valley High Camp above. The knowledge that he might safely return to the parking lot on the resort maintenance road if darkness settled in, seasoned by a desire for exploration, seemed to drive the hiker’s decision to continue up and over to the High Camp, instead of returning on the path that he had already taken.

The hiker’s chosen route led he and Mingus directly uphill through the broken cliff bands between the Silverado Chair and High Camp. Had he been more familiar with the terrain, he might have taken a lower line, hikers left up Silverado Chute, a 30°- 35° drainage leading up to the Broken Arrow ridgeline, which may have safely been obtained by foot. Undoubtedly, it was the beckoning High Camp building that tickled his sense of adventure to attempt a steeper and more direct, 3rd class scramble in the direction of the upper tram tower. After negotiating several hundred yards of steep vegetated slopes and loose rocky steps, the hiker was struck squarely in the arm by falling rock. The blow left a gash in his left elbow and rendered partial numbness in his hand and fingers. Somewhere around this time, the desire for adventure wore off. The man recognized that the terrain outmatched his and Mingus’ skill level and he placed a cell phone call to both his family and to the sheriff, that he was in trouble.

The Squaw Valley Fire Department was first on scene. They quickly dispatched the Careflight helicopter, who, was able to get a visual ID and GPS coordinates on the man just as dusk was settling in. SVFD then dispatched two firefighters who hiked down by way of the Solitude Chair, reached the drainage below the man on foot and located the position of the stranded hiker and his dog. TNSAR was called out around 9 pm and arrived at the IC in the Squaw Valley parking lot between 10-10:30 pm. Jimmy Smith, Steve Twomey, Dirk Schoonmaker, Russ Viehmann, Gerald Rockwell and Troy Corliss responded to go out in the field. John and Kathy Chilcote arrived with the Comm. Van.

SVFD briefed the team and escorted the six “ground pounders” up the resort maintenance road to the Broken Arrow ridge and the top of the Silverado Chute. (The new TNSAR truck powered up the steep dirt roads with ease.) Under headlamps and a sparkling starry sky, the six hiked down the gully, traversed the steep slope to the firefighters; Russ, Jimmy & Dirk continued up to the stranded hiker, quickly assessed that he was mobile and began the process of careful retreat into the Silverado drainage and back up the Silverado Chute. All returned safely back to the vehicles parked above shortly after 1 am the following morning. The hiker and dog Mingus looked forward to a well-deserved day off, appreciative of the opportunity to plan their next adventure and to reassess their approach to “easy” day hikes.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles
PCSO Terry Viehmann
Kelli Twomey
Kathy Chilcote
John Chilcote
Dirk Schoonmaker Jimmy Smith
Steve Twomey
Dirk Schoonmaker
Russ Viehmann
Gerald Rockwell
Troy Corliss