Escaping death at Yosemite

Written by Paul Stallard

This is a story that took place last month, alongside Berkeley Communication’s own Ollie Bennett and our friend Anish during a three-week road trip around California and Nevada.

We headed from Oakland to Yosemite in pursuit of a life-changing adventure and were not left disappointed. A six-hour drive flew by and before we knew it, we were there and crashing for the night.

The next morning the plan was to take a light stroll to a waterfall before retiring to the campsite to finish off our  Budweiser’s and nap in the deck-chairs. Arriving at the first waterfall at midday, we were happy, but not yet blown away. So, with more energy to burn, began our long trek to Nevada Falls.

Three hours later and we had reached the Falls, euphoric to make it that far in the blaring heat and mesmerized by the views. Pictures were taken, Rice Krispie bars were passed around, and Sunny D was swigged down, none of us seeming to care that we were down to our last couple of drinks.

At 3:30 pm, we decided it was time to head back so asked where the nearest bus stop was before learning that not only was the bus stop five miles away, but that the buses had now stopped running for the day…

With no choice but to trek back home to Glacier Point, we asked around for shorter routes back to avoid another exhausting journey. “No you guys don’t wanna do that, it’s too far!” was the first response from a no-nonsense lady. The next was a man of sixty, who appeared to be a veteran of these trails. His words made us quake in fear, “Yeah (points) that’ll be seven miles that way up that mountain. Seriously fellas, good luck out there.”

By 6 pm we figured we were halfway there and spirits were still positive, despite leg cramp and tiredness kicking in.

That calmness however, quickly evaporated as we succumbed to the effects of dehydration. Nobody thinking to be conservative with water, we were now limited to one bottle of Powerade and a bottle of stream water from earlier, which was jokingly filled up in case we ever got “really desperate”.

Dehydration turning us delirious, we could barely speak, let alone walk another few miles up and down mountains. Then at around 6:30 pm, and after going for hours without seeing other human-beings, we realised that we were lost.

Half an hour of panic followed with each of us crumbling inside at the thought of falling victim to these woods and disappearing forever (as I conveniently remembered had happened to another group of tourists out here a month previously but decided not to share with the group).

Faced by severe dehydration, dizzy from the altitude (the majority of the seven miles back were uphill), cramping legs, bear noises everywhere, no phone signal and the fact that we were now well and truly lost, this was certainly no longer a pleasant holiday adventure. Instead we had found ourselves in a survival situation more resonant of a scene from Bear Gryll’s The Island.

For that short while, we each began to fear for the worst and were struggling to remain calm.

Miraculously at 7:00 pm and in what could easily have been a mirage, we spotted a couple of hikers approaching in the distance. They were able to give us directions to Glacier Point where was a mere hour and half away.

Reaching Glacier Point was by far the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced, both mentally and physically.

That night at the camp as we sat in the deck-chairs with a Budweiser in hand, elation and relief flowed throughout the group as we realised just how lucky we’d been that day.

What does any of this have to do with PR? Well let’s be honest, this story is more interesting because of the bad news element of a near-death experience. I could have told tales about the lovely times we had on the rest of the trip from devouring clam chowder in San Francisco, partying in Las Vegas or bodyboarding on Venice beach, but that it is far too self-indulgent and let’s be honest, boring.

Cynical though it may seem, we as humans are drawn to bad news and businesses should remember this when trying to make us buy into product and vision.