The first weekend of spring quarter, Jenny and I had the chance to go up to Yosemite with Jenny’s aunt for an annual conference of Fresno doctors held at the Yosemite lodge. I was excited for the chance to visit Yosemite during the winter season, although our 5 AM departure time was less exciting. We got to the valley Friday around noon and spent the afternoon hanging around the valley and also attending some of the conference including a lecture of wilderness rescue (hint hint).
The next morning, Jenny and I started up the 4 mile Yosemite Falls trail with snowshoes and poles rented from Stanford Outdoors, hoping to hike to the top of the falls and then hike west along the rim of the valley to El Capitan. The bottom of the trail was snow-free and after about a mile we encountered our first snowfield, where we took off our snowshoes, only to take them back off in about 200 feet. Our first valuable insight: it’s possible to walk on snow in boots- it’s much harder to walk on not-snow in snowshoes…
After mile two, the whole trail was snow however. Here we put on our snowshoes and extensions and began honing our terrible snowshoeing skills. It was my second time snowshoeing and Jenny’s first. Valuable insight number: a little previous experience makes a big difference.
About a half mile from the top as Jenny and plodded our way along, I suddenly looked up and saw a man buried waist-deep in snow waving is arms and screaming for help. After we reached him and got him over to the trail, we began to piece together some ramblings. His name was Menachem Shoval, and he was a 70-year old Israeli man now living in Poway, a suburb of San Diego. We found out that he had started hiking up to the falls the day before and had ended up spending the night out in the cold the night before. The next morning when he woke up cold and soaked to the bone he (for some reason) continued hiking up, and that’s where Jenny and I found him. Without further ado, Menachem Shoval:
Fortunately, we still had cell signal, so Jenny and I called her mom who put us in touch with the park ranger rescue service. I told the rangers that while we thought Menachem would need help, it wasn’t dire, so the ranger told me they were sending another ranger up with gear to help us. In the meantime, Jenny and I wrapped Menachem in our extra clothes, gave him food, and water, and tried to keep him from thinking about how cold he was, with the help of a few other hikers who came over to help us. The three hours waiting for the ranger was where things really got interesting…
Menachem began telling us about himself. About how he was a colonel in the Israeli military and had then played professional soccer. About how we had purchased a large plot of property in Poway with the hope of turning the area in low-income housing and soccer fields, but how he was blocked and harassed by the city of Poway. We began to suspect that Menachem, may have been in worse shape than we thought.
After 3 hours the ranger arrived with dry clothes, food, warm Gatorade, and snowshoes for Menachem, at which point the ranger said we had gone above and beyond and were free to continue on. Since it was about 4, Jenny and I couldn’t hike very far, but we were only a half mile from the top, so we quickly reached the top and then started hiking back down, where we came across the ranger basically carrying Menachem down. To help out the ranger suggested that I carry his gear so he could just carry Menachem, at which point, Jenny took my gear, I took the ranger’s, and the ranger took Menachem.
Two hours later just as we got off the snowfields, the twelve person rescue team arrived, took our info, and then took Menachem, so Jenny and I hiked down to a much-deserved dinner at the lodge. We got to see a pretty sunset on the way down:
The story gets even better though. The next morning, after stopping by the ranger station to check and see if Menachem ended up being alright, I decided to Google him on a whim, and believe it or not, Menachem’s history and Poway stories were true! The city did block his attempts to convert his property into low-income housing and soccer fields, a case which is currently working it’s way up through the California court system. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up… If you don't believe me, just Google Menachem Shoval.
All-in-all, our trip to Yosemite was quite memorable, something Jenny and I won’t forget anytime soon.