TNSAR Search 08/16/2009

Missing Hiker on Tahoe Rim Trail

Three friends left 64-Acre Park in Tahoe City for a two day hike along the Tahoe Rim Trail that would end for one of the hikers at Tahoe Meadows along the Mt. Rose Hwy above Incline Village. The other two planned to continue hiking the remaining portion of the Rim Trail over the next seven days.

On the second day, Sunday August 16th, the three had run out of water at about the halfway point on the section of trail between Brockway Summit and Tahoe Meadows. As they were hiking, the three eventually became separated, but had planned to meet and regroup at Gray Lake.

The third and slowest moving hiker in the group arrived at Gray Lake to find that his fellow hikers were not there. He refilled his water supply and hiked back up to the trail to wait for his friends as he was not sure as to where they had gone. As night began to fall, he decided to find a spot to lay out his sleeping bag for the night. To his credit, he made a ‘help’ sign in the trail and he had attempted to flag down two motorcyclist who passed by him on the trail. The two motorcyclists either thought he was just waving at them, or they knew they were poaching the trail in the Wilderness Area, and did not stop to chat or assist him.

Meanwhile, his fellow hikers had made it to Gray Lake where they waited for him to show. When he didn't arrive, they spent some time looking for him, but were unable to locate him. They eventually continued on and made it to the communication towers near Relay Peak. After waiting for their friend for awhile, they notified 911 of the missing hiker as they did not know where he was or if he had made it to Gray Lake to obtain water.

TNSAR was paged at approximately 6:00 PM, and after a waiting for the jurisdictional issues to be addressed, the team was called to meet at the Tahoe Rim Trailhead at Brockway Summit. The lost hiker was believed to be somewhere between Brockway Summit and Tahoe Meadows on the Tahoe Rim Trail, somewhere in the vicinity of Gray Lake. He was last known to have run out of water and the reporting party did not know if he had made it to a water source. The lost hiker did not have a cell phone with him.

The plan was for Washoe County SAR to hike in from Tahoe Meadows and TNSAR to hike in from Brockway Summit and to find the missing hiker somewhere along the way. Scoop drove Dirk, Jim, and Jimmy up the forest service road on the north side of Brockway Summit to where the road intersected the Rim Trail. From there, the three began the hike heading east just after 8:30 PM.

At approximately 10:30 PM and after close to five miles of travel, the team heard the lost hiker finally call out in response to one of Dirk’s many shouts. After a quick run a little further up the trail, the team located the lost hiker in his sleeping bag on the north side of the trail approximately .6 miles east of rose Knob with a great view of the evening sky and the meteor showers that were still going on. The lost hiker had found water, but the one thing he was lacking was food. The three hikers had separated equipment and the lost hiker was carrying two of the sleeping bags, but none of the food for the group. After eating all of the Clif bars and granola bars the team could push on him, the group waited for the evacuation plan to be agreed upon.

At approximately 10:45 PM, a Washoe County Sheriff helicopter, call sign Raven, flew overhead and began the task of looking for a landing zone. Unfortunately, the helicopter did not have any of the radio channels that the team had, so communication between the team and aircraft was not possible. Eventually, the pilot determined there was no place to land and left the area.

At that point, the Washoe and Placer commanders agreed to follow the team’s recommendation and the lost hiker was hiked back out to Brockway. At approximately 1:30 AM, the team met Scoop and Steve at the truck at the initial drop-off point and the group drove from there back to the command post.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles Other
PCSO and Washoe
Deputy Riella
Jackie Thomas
Amy Horne
Hayley Adamski
David Gromley
Rick Miller
Scoop Remenih
Steve Twomey
Dirk Schoonmaker
Jim Rienstra
Jimmy Smith
TJ Johnson (Motorcycle) Washoe County SAR
Washoe Helo 'Raven'