Inyo County search crews located the third missing hiker in as many weeks, and were able to extract the man from the backcountry severely injured, but alive.
Shyam Das, 68, of Saratoga was reported missing Monday, Aug. 6 after leaving his hiking group the day before and heading off to summit Mt. Whitney alone. Search and Rescue personnel found Das Tuesday in the area of Mirror Lake.
With summer visitation to the Sierra backcountry in full swing, local Search and Rescue teams responded to several calls this week, evacuating three injured hikers besides Das and recovering a body that authorities are now trying to identify.
According to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, Das set out with a group of friends on Sunday, Aug. 5 to hike Mt. Whitney. At Lone Pine Lake, Das and another hiker decided to stay behind to rest and nap. Das was instructed to head back down the trail and wait for the rest of his group when he woke up but after resting, Das headed up the trail, while his companion headed back down.
The Sheriff’s Department said the rest of his hiking group spotted Das at the trail camp at about 2 p.m., but he refused to return with them, saying he was determined to summit Whitney alone.
Das was seen again around sunset Sunday evening in the trail camp area, when an unrelated hiking group noticed him wandering the camp. He was offered food and water before he departed the camp.
Inyo County Search and Rescue, along with Fresno Search and Rescue and Mono County Search and Rescue began looking for the man Monday afternoon, locating him Tuesday below the ledges of the Mirror Lake area.
“Das is believed to have fallen,” a press release from the Inyo Sheriff’s Department states.
The California Highway Patrol provided a helicopter to assist in rescuing and transporting Das to Southern Inyo Hospital, where he is being treated for “critical” injuries.
Shortly after the rescue, Das’ family sent an e-mail to the Sheriff’s Department expressing their relief and gratitude.
“Our biggest thanks go out to you all and the local community and authorities,” the e-mail states. “Thank you, with warmest regards.”
In an unrelated case, sheriff’s investigators are looking into the death of a hiker discovered on Sawmill Trail, east of Aberdeen Resort, on Sunday.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, a hiker reported the grim discovery at about noon Sunday, about two-and-a-half miles up the trail.
Inyo County Deputy Coroner Jeff Mullenhour said a positive identification of the body should be made by Monday, Aug. 13. The cause of death is still under investigation.
Mono County Search and Rescue crews have also been busy, with three rescue missions in as many days from Friday, Aug. 3 through Sunday, Aug. 5.
On Friday, Aug. 3, Mono Search and Rescue responded to the Sherwin Lakes Trail to aid an 11-year-old female who, while hiking with her family, twisted her ankle on a rock, resulting in a fall that injured her knee.
The girl’s father, a medical geriatric care manager, called 911 to request aid in evacuating the girl from the trail.
Ten rescuers responded and transported the girl by wheeled litter to the trailhead. Her family took her to Mammoth Hospital for further treatment.
The following day, Saturday, Aug. 4, Mono Search and Rescue responded to Donohue Pass to aid a 58-year-old female who was hiking with a friend.
According to the Mono County Sheriff’s Department, recent thunderstorms created a wet terrain that caused the woman to fall, injuring her right knee and left ankle.
“The two hikers were able to camp overnight on the southeast side of Donohue Pass,” a press release states. “She determined her injuries were serious enough, after resting awhile, that she would be unable to continue on the hike or exit the backcountry.”
The injured hiker’s friend was able to hike to an area with cell phone reception and call 911 to request evacuation.
Personnel from a local pack station and Tuolumne Stables were contacted, but both said they were unable to evacuate the victim due to staff shortages “and the nature of the injuries and the risk of falling off a horse,” the press release states.
Ultimately, Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue was able to respond to the area with its helicopter to extract the injured woman from the backcountry and transport her to medical facilities for treatment.
Finally, on Sunday, Aug. 6, Mono County Search and Rescue was dispatched to the Hilton Lakes area to assist a 58-year-old off-duty nurse who also slipped on wet rocks resulting from summer thunderstorms.
According to the Mono County Sheriff’s Department, the victim suffered an ankle injury and was unable to descend steep terrain at about 11,000 feet.
Her friend was able to hike to the Rock Creek Pack Station to call for help, and Search and Rescue was dispatched. A 16-member team was dispatched and extracted the victim with the aid of a wheeled litter. She was transported to Mammoth Lakes Hospital for treatment.