Video: Calif. Highway Patrol helicopter rescues 2 trapped hikers

A Calif. Highway Patrol helicopter crew rescued two hikers who were stranded on the edge of a cliff

By Paul Rogers
The Mercury News

YOSEMITE VALLEY, Calif. — The California Highway Patrol has released a video of one of its helicopter crews performing a dramatic rescue of two British hikers who were stranded on the edge of a massive granite cliff overlooking Yosemite Valley as a major snow storm was nearing.

The video, posted to Facebook by the CHP’s Central Division Air Operations, shows a helicopter crew that took off early Wednesday to rescue two male hikers in their 20s who had become lost in the snow near North Dome the day before.

North Dome is a 7,546-foot granite landmark located on the northeastern side of Yosemite Valley, across from Glacier Point and between Yosemite Village and Tioga Road.

According to the CHP, pilot officer Scott Rodda and flight officer Dustin Henschel, a paramedic, left Fresno and located the men after a brief search. The hikers told authorities that they lost the trail while trying to hike down into Yosemite Valley. But they became trapped in a crevasse, and couldn’t make it further, due to a 2,000-foot vertical drop. Nor could they turn around and go back the way they came, because of the steep, snow-covered terrain.

So they called 911 from a cellphone Tuesday evening. Park officials, many of whom are on furlough due to the federal government shutdown, attempted to reach them that night, but could not rescue them because of weather conditions and nightfall, Yosemite said on its Facebook page. As a result, the pair slept on the cliff in temperatures that dipped below the 32 degrees recorded at Yosemite Valley that night.

Shortly after the CHP helicopter crew members located the men, they flew back and landed in Ahwahnee Meadow, where they met with the Yosemite Search and Rescue unit. Two of the Yosemite Search and Rescue officials flew on the CHP helicopter back to the men, and fitted them with rescue harnesses.

The hikers were then hoisted by cable back to the helicopter, and transported to Ahwahnee Meadow where they were met by Yosemite paramedics, who described them as “uninjured.” The CHP described their condition as “cold and wet.”

Meanwhile, the Yosemite rescue crew met with a ground team and hiked back before dark.

Under federal and state law, people who are required to be rescued from state and national parks can sometimes be billed for the costs.

Yosemite remains open during the federal shutdown, but with limited services. Hotels and restaurants, which are run by a private concession company, are open. But some campgrounds and other areas, including the Mist Trail near Vernal Falls, where a man died in a fall at Silver Apron on Christmas Day, are closed.



©2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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