Valley Voices

Miyuki Harwood: How I was rescued in the Sierra National Forest

Miyuki Harwood
Miyuki Harwood

Editor’s note: Miyuki Harwood, 62, of Folsom, was rescued Aug. 29 after nine days lost in the Sierra. In her own words, she recounts how she got lost, her ordeal and her rescue.

On Thursday, Aug. 20, our group had been together hiking the sixth day of an eight-day trip. And this day was a day trip, so we were up on Blackcap Mountain (elevation 11,556 feet in the John Muir Wildnerness Area of Fresno County).

After summiting, I decided to start back to camp ahead of the group, and I regret it.

It was getting dark. I tried to get back to the campsite but fell off the cliff. I landed on both legs.

I was conscious the whole time and wanting to get back to camp the next day.

After I fell, my left leg hurt and I took my boots off and stayed overnight there.

The next morning, I realized that I could not stand up with either leg.

I saw all the choppers flying over me the next day, but toward the end of the day they called off the rescue because of the smoke.

At the same time, my one-liter water bottle was getting low. In order for me to survive, I knew I needed water and I heard water running below me.

For the next two days, I crawled down to the water. Luckily, I had a water filter. I pumped one liter of water every day and drank it there.

Every day I saw choppers for a while that were far away from me. At night I slept on the ground with my medium-weight jacket. It was very cold at night. During the five days there, I spent every day colder and colder and would lie in the sun a few hours each day.

On Friday, Aug. 28, there was a rescue team in the area and I blew my whistle, but they did not hear me. On Saturday, Aug. 29, I thought, “This is the last chance to do something” for me to survive. And I heard voices talking. So, I blew my whistle again and they responded with my name.

They were at a distance and kept calling my name and asking where I was. I kept blowing my whistle and answered their calls.

When I first saw them, it was a miracle and I was very emotional.

The rescue team all came down to me and stayed with me while the doctor with the team stabilized my left leg. I was carried by stretcher to the open area where the helicopter landed to pick me up.

I greatly appreciate the rescuers who found me and had not given up hope to find me.

Thank you to my family, friends, co-workers and the Sierra Club.

I am doing OK and would like to concentrate on my recovery.

Thank you so much.

This is a transcript of a letter that Miyuki Harwood wrote about her ordeal. She suffered a broken left leg, a broken right ankle and an injured back after falling off a cliff trying to get back to camp.