Teenagers Rescued From PCT After Being Stranded in Major CA Snowstorm

Two 17-year-olds were rescued from the Pacific Crest Trail last Friday after being stranded in heavy snow for several days. The pair, Riley Ramirez of Cypress, California and Cole White of Portland, Oregon, were spotted by a sheriff’s helicopter on a section of trail near San Gorgonio Mountain in Southern CA.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sergeant John Scalise told the Associated Press that the hikers were slightly hypothermic when the rescue crew arrived but were otherwise OK. They were flown to the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station, where they received medical attention and were cared for until their parents arrived.

Scalise said the two hikers had been well-prepared for the hike but not for the massive amount of snow. “They knew there was weather. But I don’t think they expected the amount,” he said.

Ramirez and White started their hike on February 26 from a trailhead near Whitewater, California. They had planned to spend the next 10 days hiking a section of the PCT through the San Bernardino Mountains. Cesar Ramirez, father of Riley Ramirez, said he hadn’t been concerned for the teens’ safety. Both were experienced hikers and had extensive training and plans to join the military. They were well-prepared with food and supplies, including snowshoes, and were able to stay connected with family via a tracking app.

17-year-old hikers Riley Ramirez and Cole White. Videograb image via NBC4 News Video broadcast Monday, March 6, 2023.

Two days into the trip, Cesar Ramirez lost contact with his son on the app and alerted authorities when the loss of contact continued. On March 3, deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Morongo Basin Station were alerted to the circumstances and initiated a search and rescue operation. They dispatched a helicopter to the hikers’ last known location and were able to locate them just one hour into the flight.

During their five days on trail, Ramirez and White encountered four- to five-foot snow drifts and limited visibility, which made it difficult to stay on trail. After becoming lost, they huddled together for the next three nights to stay warm. By the time responders arrived, their tent had broken, and one of them had lost their jacket in the strong winds. The teens say they are lucky to be alive.

This rescue operation occurred amidst a series of winter storms which brought record snow to the Southern CA mountains. Governor Gavin Newsom declared states of emergency in 13 counties, including San Bernardino County, where the record snowfall resulted in mass road closures and power outages and has trapped residents in their homes for days. Crews are still working across the county to clear and reopen roads.

Featured image via Cole White/Riley Ramirez, NBC4 News.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?