WHEN TIOGA ROAD HAS REOPENED, BUT THE TRAILS ARE STILL IMPASSIBLE - FROM NPS- KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - YARTS - Public Transit to Yosemite
WHEN TIOGA ROAD HAS REOPENED, BUT THE TRAILS ARE STILL IMPASSIBLE – FROM NPS– KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

On July 1, 2017 about an hour before sunset, a wilderness law enforcement ranger on a routine backcountry patrol encountered three separate parties, seven hikers total, all completely lost while facing darkness. They were in the Sunrise Pass area south of Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows general area.

Although the Tioga Road opened just two days before, many high country trails remain snow covered, including trail signs. All three parties discovered how challenging route finding is on snow buried trails and lost their way going to Clouds Rest and back; this trail is misperceived as an easier route and some of the hikers had done this trail before. While lost, one party found another trail which they could not identify and it did not lead to where they needed to go which only worsened their situation.

Through route finding efforts and cross-country travel, the ranger successfully lead the hikers to their destination arriving at 11:00 p.m. By this time, one hiker was suffering from altitude sickness and another was asthmatic. None of the hikers were enjoying their experience.

Although the cross-country travel occurred after darkness, only two of the hikers had headlamps and the ranger had to loan out his spares.

It was fortuitous that a ranger in a vast backcountry happened across three lost parties. He was not looking for anyone specifically nor were there any reports of missing hikers as cell service is unusual in this area. Otherwise, searches would not have started at least until the following day and this would have required numerous resources, at least one miserable night outside, and an outcome that could not be guaranteed.

Lessons Learned:

– Traveling over snow covered trails requires route finding skills. This includes carrying a detailed topographical map, compass (GPS optional), and, of course, mastery of these items.

– Always, and we cannot stress this enough, have the ability to retreat or return to where you have come from by the same route. This requires you to remain aware of what’s behind you while hiking to your destination.

– Hike prepared with the 10 essentials. Few hikers intend to hike in the darkness but a headlamp, preferably two, and spare batteries, can be a game changer.

– Hikers sometimes place rock cairns for their own reference. These are not official Park Service markers and they may or may not be accurate. Bottom line, follow someone else’s markers at your own risk.

– When in doubt, hike on well-defined trails until the high-country trails are snow free.

Please help circulate the word to anyone who is thinking of hiking in the Tioga and Tuolumne areas.