Last week saw a burst of activity for the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit thanks to the recent turn in the weather.
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About 60 volunteers, supported by four Sheriff’s deputies, responded to 11 incidents between Oct. 19 and 24, a press release stated. Nine were in El Dorado County, two were assists in Alpine County.
The first incident was on Friday, Oct. 19 when a report was made of a sick hiker in Lake of the Woods in Desolation Valley. The 17-year-old Los Osos female, who was hiking with an 18-year-old female, reported she was suffering from altitude sickness. SAR volunteers spent eight hours extracting her and carrying her to safety, the press release stated.
The next day, South Lake Tahoe volunteers responded to a report of an injured mountain biker in the Freel Peak forest area. The Berkley man had sustained a head injury. He was carried out by SAR and Lake Valley Fire Department personnel and transported to Barton Hospital. His present condition is unknown.
Meanwhile, SAR also responded to two lost hikers on Mt. Tallac. A CHP helicopter located them and guided them back to a trail, where they were able to find their way out of the area without further assistance.
On Saturday, a hunter was reported missing as the 58-year-old Sacramento man had not returned to his camp as planned. SAR, the U.S. Forest Service and a CHP helicopter were dispatched to where he had been hunting in the South Fork Camp area of the Crystal Basin recreation area to search for him. The hunter found his way back to camp during the search, and, despite a minor leg injury, refused medical service beyond being checked by SAR personnel.
Oct. 21 saw SAR assisting Alpine County with a search for another missing hunter, but the hunter was found while SAR was en route.
That evening, two girls, ages 12 and 13, were reported missing from the Wentworth Springs Campground in Crystal Basin. They had become disoriented while exploring the area. SAR initiated a search, but the girls were found by their family before the SAR volunteers arrived.
The same night, three Sacramento fishermen were hiking in the Gerle Creek Reservoir of Crystal Basin. One fisherman became separated from the other two around 4 a.m. Monday morning while they were making their way back to their vehicle. By then, the temperature had dropped and snow was falling. SAR personnel followed snow tracks out of the area to a covered access road. SAR volunteers eventually located the man around 8 a.m., who was in good health and uninjured.
While searching for the fisherman, a hunter’s wife reported that her husband had rolled his Jeep on an unknown snow-covered road in the Crystal Basin area. SAR located him near Granite Springs and treated his minor injuries.
During the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 22, EDSO and SAR received a report that a Personal Emergency Response Beacon had been activated for a 39-year-old Pleasant Hill man and his wife. The couple had been hiking in the Lake of the Woods area but the beacon placed them near Echo Lakes. SAR located the couple at a cabin on Upper Echo Lake, where they were taking refuge from the ongoing storm. They were assisted back to their vehicle.
On Tuesday, SAR was sent to Alpine County to assist in located two hunters, a 40-year-old Calaveras man and his 14-year-old nephew. Both had been missing since Sunday. They were found in the Bear Valley area on Tuesday. The man was found alive but suffering from extreme hypothermia; the boy had died from the cold.
That night, around 10 p.m., a report was made of an overdue hiker in the Desolation Wilderness area. The father of 29-year-old Nathan Sperring reported his son and a friend had gone camping. His son had hitchhiked to the Eagle Falls trailhead on Oct. 19, planning to hike into Dick’s Lake. Sperring was to return to Tahoe City on Oct. 23, but, as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, is still missing after hiking in by himself. “He is well prepared and is reported to be an experienced cold weather camper with guide experience in Alaska,” a second press release stated. He had specifically advised his girlfriend and parents that if he was not back by Oct. 23, “something was wrong.”
SAR has enlisted the help of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, Tahoe Back Country Ski Patrol, Bay Area Mountain Rescue, Monterey Mountain Rescue, California Rescue Dog Association, Placer County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Alpine County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Amador County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue. There are 59 SAR volunteers and five deputies on the ground, with two helicopters from the 168th National Guard Unit out of Mather and a CHP helicopter and a helicopter from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office searching by air.
EDSO warns that conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and that trips should be planned wisely. Preparation is key. Finally, be sure to let someone know where the you are going and when you will be back.