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Rescued hiker will never forget her night lost on San Gorgonio Mountain

By in Press Enterprise on January 13, 2018

By Suzanne Hurt

She was alone at the top of Southern California’s highest mountain.

As she crossed the rocky, treeless plateau toward the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain, the fog, cold and high winds made her nervous.

The fog was so thick, Bethany Sloan couldn’t see the 11,502-foot crest after hiking at least eight miles to get there and facing that same distance to return.

Yet that didn’t matter anymore. All she could think about was getting down — back to the trailhead and her truck, which was waiting to carry her home to sleep in her own warm bed.

So about 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6, she turned around 200 feet shy of her summit goal.

She’d set out from Forest Falls about 7:30 a.m. on a beautiful morning, taking Vivian Creek Trail with Matthew Ele of Green Valley Lake.

Her friend advised her to bring extra clothes in case weather changed. So Sloan, a 32-year-old Redlands property manager, stuffed longjohns in her daypack.

Four miles up in the San Bernardino National Forest, Ele got altitude sickness and decided to turn back. They were just entering pretty scenery after the steep section.

I’m halfway there already, thought Sloan, who got extra water from Ele and kept going.

Didn’t want rescue

Hours later, she was finally headed down as fog closed in. Sloan, who’s hiked for 10 years, didn’t notice her mistake until after a mile, when she got to a large fallen tree she didn’t remember seeing across the trail on the way up.

She checked her location on her cellphone’s GPS tracker: She was on the wrong trail.

She was on San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail heading west – not south, down Vivian Creek Trail.

She’d missed the turnoff. She tried retracing her steps. Then she lost the ridgeline trail in the fog. The GPS showed her about 100 feet away.

Hiker Bethany Sloan, 32, […]    

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