Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27/17]

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Myth » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:47 pm

The reference to the cell ping reminds me of Bill Ewasko :(

I'm afraid that there's almost no hope, not with the kind of temperatures JT has seen of late. I was out in relatively mild heat ( 101F or so ) this weekend and had a dehydration headache and mild mental fuzziness after a mere 3 hours - starting out from being hydrated enough that my pee was crystal clear. In average conditions 3 days is about as long as a person can survive without water. There's a bit of hope for water - monsoon rains in the Park in recent days. From an article ( http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/articl ... 967e7.html ): "The searchers are also coping with changing park terrain thanks to the monsoonal rains in the past month. The storm that hit some parts of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms Saturday night did not fall in the search area, but Messaros said they hope some water might get to Nguyen and Orbeso. “We’re hearing from the teams that there is water up in the rocks, so what we’re hoping is they’re able to find some water and shade,” he said."

They may have managed to escape the worst heat by taking refuge in a rock pile, of which there are many in that area of the Park. Large rock piles can create microclimates tens or more degrees cooler than the surrounding area ( I know this from experience ) and that might be enough, for a while. Also - I have found water in the most random places in JT. More than once, in the form of a cache placed by rock climbers or hikers. So, possibly ...

According to this article ( http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/articl ... 5cac2.html ) they are supposedly fit and athletic, so I would guess that they are much further away from the trailhead than would seem reasonable, and may possibly be prepared to survive for longer than typical day hikers would. That article states footprints in a canyon "north" of where their vehicle was found. Assuming the vehicle was parked at the Maze trailhead I'd think they might have headed into this wash: 34.084597, -116.241743. There's some scrambling waiting in that wash based on a quick look at the satellite view, but it seems passable if you know some cross-country tricks for navigating rough spots. It's about 2 miles in a straight line out of the Park. From my own experience in the Park: I've gone down washes where a bad choice scrambling down a rock, or even just a slip and fall, would have trapped me in a 8-foot deep, 10 foot wide hole between boulders with no way out. Whenever I encounter a trap like that I pucker up a bit and my heart flutters. You have to respect the terrain out there, and be really, really deliberate and careful in what you do, and more than willing to turn around if you have even a whisper of a misgiving. I have done that more times than I have proceeded.

Regarding that cell ping, from the first article I linked: "A ping of Orbeso’s cellphone was recorded at 4 p.m. Thursday from inside the park. Messarsos said the ping came from the general area where the couple’s car was parked, so it was of limited use to the search." Spitballing a 4pm ping from the vicinity of their car: maybe they planned to hike up a nearby peak to view the sun set from up high. The peak in the area 34.0887, -116.2405 seems from Google Earth to have local prominence and might have been a target. That would gel with the footprints found leading north.

Of course, it is easy to come up with wild theories from a chair and a quick glance at Google Earth. My opinion isn't worth the electricity taken to transmit it to your screens.

The Joshua Tree S&R group has this picture on their FB page that appears to show some tracks from the aerial search: https://www.facebook.com/josarorg/photo ... =3&theater

Heat seeking instruments is a fantastic way to find a live body in rough terrain. I'm not sure how effective it would be when the ambient temperature is close to body temperature, though. I'd love to know more about that. Granite rocks, for example, holds on to daytime heat for a while.

I agree that it seems like drones would be an ideal search aid in these cases.

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A Resqlink costs $250. I carry mine whenever I enter the wilderness. I am not a fool and I know it isn't foolproof ( as an example - if I fell into one of those 8 by 10 coffins I mentioned earlier, the odds of it picking up a satellite through a 10x10 ceiling window to the sky is basically nil, so I'd be screwed ), so I do not take any risks just because I'm carrying it. I'm not of the "idiots think their Spot will always save them" mindset. But just in case I suffer a lapse in judgement or bad luck, I like to have at least one Hail Mary to throw.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby cynthia23 » Mon Jul 31, 2017 9:58 pm

Thank you so much for that very informative response, Myth. You obviously have a great deal of relevant experience here. And, the HiDesertStar links were much more informative than the KESQ one.

I agree the situation is very bad, but I haven't given up all hope--the 'three-day' rule on how long people can last without water is not absolute. For instance, there was Rosenthal, the guy who managed to stay alive for six days in Joshua Tree without water--granted it was not summer. Another young couple was found alive last year in the desert near the border after five days without water. I can personally attest that my elderly mother, dying at home of cancer, refused all liquids and yet lived on for over a week. Of course, these are all examples without the added burden of severe heat. It's an undeniably grim situation. I wish there was something I personally could do. I'm glad they have dogs looking, perhaps they'll have success. Prayer can't hurt and might help, so all believers, please pitch in with one. Nonbelievers can contribute their good thoughts and hopes.

And on a practical note, Myth reminds us of the pragmatic steps we each can do to take responsibility for our own safety in the wilderness, from satellite safety devices to simply telling others where you're going.

btw Myth, you should share your guess as to the wash the couple might have headed into with the rescue team. There is an information number you could call. Who knows, maybe they haven't looked there.
Last edited by cynthia23 on Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby OtherHand » Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:03 pm

I've been following this a while since I often drove by the trailhead they used when heading in to do many of my Bill searches. The Maze trail makes sort of a loop through some very nasty terrain, and if you get off the route there could be problems. That said, that area is very close to civilization and a relatively contained area. It strikes me as strange that whatever happened incapacitated both of them and they have been unable to make their location known to searchers.

I'm not sure if this link will work, but this looks to be a summary of the search tracks as of yesterday. The curvy ones are likely helicopter.

Ironically (??) the ping mentioned likely came from the Serin Tower as that's the one providing coverage to that area. When I'm heading out on Park Road that's the location when I first pick up cell service again. A 4 PM ping seems rather late in the day to be near the trailhead, but it hasn't been published when they arrived in the park. The park almost certainly knows that through receipt records and the camera they installed at the west entrance station sometime in the past few years that records every vehicle, even after hours. I've wondered if that was in response to the issues that came up in regards to issues with Bill's search.

It was 98 today at Lost Horse and 97 yesterday. The automated weather reporting station at the Lost Horse Ranger Station isn't far from their trailhead and one I've often checked when planning Bill hikes. Nice representative temps for the area:

Lost Horse RAWS Station
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby cynthia23 » Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:12 pm

I agree with you OtherHand, I think it is strange also. A grim thought I have had is that perhaps it was a murder-suicide, i.e. one of those horrible yet fairly common situations where a romance goes bad and the spurned partner murders the other one before committing suicide. I hope not, obviously. There could be many other explanations and sometimes the simplest ones (heat, exhaustion, unfamiliarity with such terrain) are most logical.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Myth » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:04 am

I'm having trouble with the "both incapacitated" portion of this too, OtherHand. My likely guess there is that they travelled together over terrain that made backtracking hard, maybe without realizing it at the time. When you're having fun it is easy to drop down a short dry waterfall that you'll never get back up.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby OtherHand » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:40 am

Here is the trail that searchers believe was the intended route of the couple and the trailhead where their vehicle was found. It's a pretty straightforward route. Unless one gets off-trail in the rugged area north of the trailhead there's good visibility. What strikes me is that it's a rather contained area yet aerial searching has failed to turn them up. Also, "civilization" is pretty close and if one starts heading downhill you'll get to homes or roads. So....If they're in the search area they should have been found and if they got out of the search area they should have connected with someone, somewhere.

Edit: And I just read the search has been suspended as of Monday night. I'm not sure if that's just bad reporting though. If true, that seems like it's been halted early. Authorities often run SAR missions for about 7 days, I guess the idea being is that subjects have low survival rates at that point and the ongoing risk to SAR field members isn't worth the probable outcome. Another possibility is the incident commander feels all the probable areas have been covered adequately and the couple has done something unexpected.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Ed » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:08 am

I blame it on the prevalence of AC in the modern age. Many people simply don't understand the difference between being out in the heat for a short period of time, versus a long one.

And another situation where a SPOT or PLB would have saved lives and the time and effort of a search. Or a GPS, so you don't become truly lost.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Myth » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:18 am

My immediate thought was "They should check the terrain across the road from the trailhead too. People sometimes just park where they can and walk off in a completely different direction."* When you don't find people in the obvious spots they've usually done something strange. Or, they did the expected thing but given all the nooks and crannies of the terrain, they're hidden to where you can walk within 10 feet of them and not see them.

I think one of the articles stated that their footprints was found intermittently throughout the Park. So they may have been out and about all day and this was a last stop. Which makes it more likely that their water was running low, maybe.


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* This is clouded by the fact that this is usually what I do in JTNP, because I'm usually off the beaten track. Regular tourists probably stick to the expected a bit more than I do, but if I ever get lost and my resqlink doesn't get a signal out, please look for me in the apparently stupidest place I could have gone from where you found my car, because that's probably where I'll be. I wear size 10.5 Keen boots, look for those footprints :P


EDIT: It was bad reporting. The search is still active, resuming around 5am this morning: http://abcnews.go.com/US/search-resumes ... d=48965771
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby Cy Kaicener » Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:55 am

. Please visit my website at www.hiking4health.com for more information especially the Links.
http://cys-hiking-adventures.blogspot.com
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday

Postby cynthia23 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:29 am

Thank you for posting that, Cy.

Ed, I agree with you that many people no longer understand what it is to spend a long time physically exerting oneself in heat.

KESQ has an update from 7.50 a.m. saying the search has been suspended without explanation--I wonder if that is accurate, i.e. that the search has been suspended again-- or just misinformation? We had thunderstorms last night and it would be logical to suspend it, but I can't see why the suspension would continue today. I hope they will continue searching as long as they can.

The situation grows increasingly puzzling. I wonder more now about foul play. We had a recent case of a disappearance of a young couple. They still haven't been found, just their car in Banning. Superficially the couple are rather similar to this one.

Or, as Myth said, they've simply done something very unexpected, like strike out xc into unexpected terrain. I like your theory of climbing up to see the sunset.
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