December 8, 2012

Story of survival, tragedy and tenacity in the Sierra Nevadas

Too many “hikers” get lost or stuck or hurt to want to list or report on this site. Now and then, however, a story stands out for its uniqueness or importance. Although not about hiking, here is a story about a woman able to survive harsh conditions and her brother who would not give up looking for her.

According to a The Telegraph, Paula Lane, 46, and her boyfriend, Roderick Clifton, 44, entered the Sierra Nevada mountains on November 29 in their Jeep Cherokee. According to officials, Clifton drove around a locked gate that was closed because of the threat of bad weather. There was no cell phone service in the area.

The vehicle got stuck in mud near a lake in Hope Valley, where the couple spent the night inside the vehicle. The next morning, Clifton left the vehicle in search for help along a highway six miles away. He never made it.

Lane remained in the vehicle for four days before attempting to reach safety. She took tomatoes the couple had brought with them and a blanket from the Jeep. Eventually she took shelter in a hollow tree. Along the way, she came across the body of Clifton, who had perished looking for help.

A search involving a helicopter failed to locate the couple, but her brother, Gary, refused to give up. Lane’s sister told reporters, “We couldn’t stop Gary. We just let him do what he had to do. He had a feeling. They have a special bond, they really do.”

He eventually discovered his sister crawling through the snow.

She suffered from mild frostbite on her toes and was malnourished. However, doctors thought her condition was good considering she had spent a week in the snow laden mountains with little food. As of December 6, she was in stable condition and recovering nicely, according to a family member.


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