Searchers located two overdue hikers on Wednesday, Oct. 1, who had failed to return two days earlier to the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park as per their scheduled itinerary. Rommel Pompa, 32, and his wife, Marisol Pompa, from Vista, Calif., in San Diego County, went missing while backpacking out of Cedar Grove to the Rae Lakes Loop area of Kings Canyon National Park.
The wilderness permit filed by the couple stated that they had departed Cedar Grove on Thursday, Sept. 25, north via the Woods Creek trail and intended to return from the approximately 50-mile trip on Monday, Sept. 29, via the Bubbs Creek trail. The route includes a climb over 12,000-foot Glen Pass.
When park rangers had determined that the hikers were missing, a search was initiated. Searchers spent Wednesday canvassing the Cedar Grove area on foot, as well as on horseback and in the air using a park helicopter. It was the searchers in the air who spotted the duo on Wednesday afternoon hunkered down on a steep ridge in the Charlotte Creek drainage, about 18 trail miles from Cedar Grove.
The incident commander in the rescue reported that the couple thought it best to not attempt to go up or down from their precarious perch. It was not known how long the couple had been ledged out or why they had left the main trail.
Charlotte Lake, at an elevation of 10,370 feet, has a seasonal backcountry ranger station and is a popular camping destination for those hiking the popular Rae Lakes Loop. Information from other hikers in the area helped narrow the search area.
Rescuers on foot were able reach the stranded couple and helped them down. The couple walked out on their own with the rangers on Thursday, Oct. 2.
A weather system that moved through the area on Saturday evening dropped the season’s first snowfall at elevations above 8,000 feet, which may have hampered the couple's travel. Weather in the Sierra can change suddenly to white-out conditions, obscuring even the most established trails.
Backcountry travelers, especially at this time of year, are encouraged to check the latest weather forecasts and be prepared for cold temperatures and possible snow.