A day hike turned into an all-night ordeal for three young adults from Sacramento who spent a blustery, cold night huddling together on the side of a rocky outcropping in the Desolation Wilderness.
While nursing rope burns and sore bodies Monday, the hikers said they were happy to be home. One of them, Kayly O’Connor, joked that she would not want to be a reality TV survivor star.
“I thought that I wanted to be on ‘Naked and Afraid,’ but, after this, I think I have changed my mind,” she said.
The hikers began their visit to the Sierra Nevada on Friday afternoon. Around daylight Saturday, a CHP helicopter crew flying out of Auburn Municipal Airport spotted James Lerude, 20; Todd Syper Jr., 20; and O’Connor, 23, on their rocky perch.
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Hiker Lerude said Monday that his fingers were “a little messed up” from rope burn. He and his friends had planned to hike to the top of a rocky area and then come back down, all in an afternoon.
“We got about 15 feet from the top when it started getting dark so we started to head down,” said Lerude. “We went down a different path and we had to use a rope to get down one of these rocks. It messed up our hands and it became too dark.”
O’Connor said she fell, hitting her ribs, when she tried to go over rock with the aid of the nylon rope. Lerude also fell, and both of them suffered rope burns.
The three became stuck on a rocky ledge and that is when they dialed 911 for help, which was sent by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. Searchers first tried to hike up to the spot where the three were stuck, but could not get there safely in the dark.
The group huddled through the night without water or food. They were dressed in light clothing because they didn’t think they were going to be hiking for more than a few hours.
“I was freezing,” said Lerude. “We were not prepared at all.”
“We were afraid we were going to fall off the cliff so we just tried to sit still,” said O’Connor.
On Saturday morning, the arriving helicopter crew could see that there was no suitable landing spot for the chopper and winds were blowing at 50 mph, gusting to 60 mph.
Rather than plucking them from the outcropping, the decision was made to lower rescue personnel from the helicopter to the stranded hikers. Once that was accomplished, each hiker was helped to safety by the rescuers with climbing skills.
The trio, once off the outcropping, hiked out with the rescue personnel. Lerude and O’Connor thanked rescuers on the ground and in the air for their efforts.
Lerude said they should not have attempted the hike so late in the day and should have dressed more warmly. O’Connor said they should not have depended on a nylon rope or gone off-trail.
CHP Officer and spokesman David E. White said it is important when engaging in such a dangerous adventure that outdoor enthusiasts take the proper equipment, survival gear and provisions in case the unexpected happens.
“The winds were howling up there,” said White, who spoke to the pilot of the helicopter. “And the shale rock, which crumbles away, prevented them from going up and down. Their hands had rope burns. They were stranded on that ledge. When you see on the video how sheer the drop is, they did the right thing by not trying to move.”