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Search & Rescue Use “Old School” Methods To Save Hiker

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Sonora, CA– Recently a call came into Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue that required old fashioned rescue techniques. A hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail had injured her ankle and could no longer stand or continue the hike. Fresno CHP was given the hiker’s coordinates and was contacted to assist with the rescue but the winds at 10,000 feet were too high to attempt any kind of traditional air evacuation. The next idea was to utilize the CAL FIRE Firehawk 404. It was launched and headed to the hiker but encountered the same strong winds that prevented even the larger aircraft from attempting an evacuation.

Finally, it came down to two Search and Rescue personnel, Leigh Spokas and Matt Divine, on horseback with an extra saddle horse and a pack mule who left the trailhead at Sonora Pass to make the 6.5-mile trip to the hiker. Snow ended up blocking the trail only 4 miles in and the rescuers had to tie their horses and proceed the remaining 2.5 miles on foot. After finding the hiker and utilizing a soft splint to wrap the hiker’s ankle, they returned to the horses for a ground evacuation. Crossing footholds in the snow took hours but the hiker was returned to the trailhead.

Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue commend the actions and flexibility of their staff.