CA Missing California hiker found after photo reveals location

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PALMDALE, Calif. — If a picture is worth a thousand words, a photo texted by a stranded California hiker helped save his life.

April 15, 2021
PALMDALE, Calif. — If a picture is worth a thousand words, a photo texted by a stranded California hiker helped save his life.

A photograph of a man’s soot-stained legs, perched above a canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains, was the clue needed for a GPS hobbyist to help authorities save Rene Compean’s life.

Compean, 45, of Palmdale, was disoriented and lost in a remote region of the Angeles National Forest on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. On Tuesday, rescue teams dispatched by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found him and carried him back to safety, according to Sgt. John Gilbert of the sheriff’s department’s Crescenta Valley station.
“I’m happy to be alive,” Compean told KCBS.
The saving clue was a photograph Compean texted to a friend before he went missing. It showed him from the knees down, dangling his bare legs from a precipice.

When Compean was reported missing by his friend, the man’s car was found near a campground but officials did not know which trail he had taken. That is when the friend offered the grainy photo Compean had texted.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough for satellite mapping enthusiast Benjamin Kuo of Thousand Oaks, who responded to authorities’ plea on social media and helped narrow down Compean’s location, KCBS reported.

“I’ve got a very weird hobby, which is, I love taking a look at photos and figuring out where they’re taken,” Kuo told KNBC. “I found the location right here, and they actually found him right about there,” Kuo told KCBS, referring to a map of mountainous terrain.

“This was a good clue and it was worth investigation,” Gilbert told KNBC. “So that’s when we asked our Air Rescue 5 to go and check out that area and see if they saw anything, lo and behold we were able to find him.”

The GPS coordinates Kuo sent allowed the rescue team to find Compean about three-quarters of a mile from the spot, the Times reported.
Triplet Rocks, near where Compean was found, is considered “the least accessible peak in the San Gabriel Mountains,” according to summitpost.org, a mountaineering website.
Compean and Kuo met in a virtual meeting, KNBC reported.
“I crazy appreciate what you did,” Compean told Kuo. “I really don’t know if I could make it there another day. It was just so cold.”
Kuo has helped authorities before. He is an amateur ham radio user who goes by the handle @Ai6yrham on Twitter, but he said he’s never aided in anyone’s rescue, the Times reported.
“I’m very happy that he’s safe,” Kuo said of Compean. “It’s gratifying that sitting behind a computer at my desk was so helpful to somebody.”
 

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Carpe diem
PALMDALE, Calif. — If a picture is worth a thousand words, a photo texted by a stranded California hiker helped save his life.

April 15, 2021
PALMDALE, Calif. — If a picture is worth a thousand words, a photo texted by a stranded California hiker helped save his life.
>> Read more trending news
A photograph of a man’s soot-stained legs, perched above a canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains, was the clue needed for a GPS hobbyist to help authorities save Rene Compean’s life.

Compean, 45, of Palmdale, was disoriented and lost in a remote region of the Angeles National Forest on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. On Tuesday, rescue teams dispatched by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found him and carried him back to safety, according to Sgt. John Gilbert of the sheriff’s department’s Crescenta Valley station.
“I’m happy to be alive,” Compean told KCBS.
The saving clue was a photograph Compean texted to a friend before he went missing. It showed him from the knees down, dangling his bare legs from a precipice.

View attachment 10954
When Compean was reported missing by his friend, the man’s car was found near a campground but officials did not know which trail he had taken. That is when the friend offered the grainy photo Compean had texted.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough for satellite mapping enthusiast Benjamin Kuo of Thousand Oaks, who responded to authorities’ plea on social media and helped narrow down Compean’s location, KCBS reported.

“I’ve got a very weird hobby, which is, I love taking a look at photos and figuring out where they’re taken,” Kuo told KNBC. “I found the location right here, and they actually found him right about there,” Kuo told KCBS, referring to a map of mountainous terrain.

“This was a good clue and it was worth investigation,” Gilbert told KNBC. “So that’s when we asked our Air Rescue 5 to go and check out that area and see if they saw anything, lo and behold we were able to find him.”


The GPS coordinates Kuo sent allowed the rescue team to find Compean about three-quarters of a mile from the spot, the Times reported.
Triplet Rocks, near where Compean was found, is considered “the least accessible peak in the San Gabriel Mountains,” according to summitpost.org, a mountaineering website.
Compean and Kuo met in a virtual meeting, KNBC reported.
“I crazy appreciate what you did,” Compean told Kuo. “I really don’t know if I could make it there another day. It was just so cold.”
Kuo has helped authorities before. He is an amateur ham radio user who goes by the handle @Ai6yrham on Twitter, but he said he’s never aided in anyone’s rescue, the Times reported.
“I’m very happy that he’s safe,” Kuo said of Compean. “It’s gratifying that sitting behind a computer at my desk was so helpful to somebody.”
Okay, sometimes a weird hobby REALLY pays out❤
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
This is a heartwarming story with a good ending but did I miss why his legs were soot stained?
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
a fire to keep warm?
Possible I guess. I did think about the camp fire thing/camp site but have done it myself and never had soot stained legs. However, could be possible I guess. Just interesting they said that but never really explained it.
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
Maybe somebody that wrote it never went hiking and got really dirty before? It looks like when we've been out sweaty with dust flying around.
Now that you mention that, it reminds me of riding on 4-wheelers in dry and dustry conditions. One is very dark by the end of such, that would make sense as would soot from something.
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
I can so relate to this guy! I have a thing about trying to see if I can tell an exact spot a picture was taken, too on certain occasions. It has come in handy quite a few times.
I wouldn't have the patience, maybe if there was something in the photo to start with like a gas station or what state, etc. If don that interests you, in the Morphew case some have done that and claim the daughters were not as far away as they said they were based on some photos that were posted...
 

Guess Who

Well-known member
I wouldn't have the patience, maybe if there was something in the photo to start with like a gas station or what state, etc. If don that interests you, in the Morphew case some have done that and claim the daughters were not as far away as they said they were based on some photos that were posted...
i really like to look at maps so it fits right in with that
 

SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

Administrator
Staff member
WOW! Okay people, sometimes it's a VERY good idea to take your phone with you to commune with nature!
He's damn lucky he was able to get cell phone reception!

I carry one of these, a Garmin InReach:
1618886165390.png

Depending on which subscription you get / how much you want to pay, you can get them to track your position, have two-way GPS text messaging, an SOS button, location sharing, weather forecasts, navigation, and more.

I most recently used it to send out a message to my dad when I was backpacking solo. Simply, "Made it to camp safely. Here is my location." with GPS coordinates. Would have been impossible without this because I had no cell service.

 

SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

Administrator
Staff member
This is a heartwarming story with a good ending but did I miss why his legs were soot stained?
This was also an area with recent wildfires. He was lost and off-trail, and even climbed up to a remote ridgeline. He likely ran into / through some soot. But I do agree his legs just kinda look dirty and sweaty.

"so many of the trees and signs in the area had been burned by wildfire and were destroyed" - Rene Compean’s picture of his soot-streaked legs mobilized SoCal hiking community and saved his life
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
He's damn lucky he was able to get cell phone reception!

I carry one of these, a Garmin InReach:
View attachment 10963

Depending on which subscription you get / how much you want to pay, you can get them to track your position, have two-way GPS text messaging, an SOS button, location sharing, weather forecasts, navigation, and more.

I most recently used it to send out a message to my dad when I was backpacking solo. Simply, "Made it to camp safely. Here is my location." with GPS coordinates. Would have been impossible without this because I had no cell service.

Anyone who hikes, camps remotely, etc. would be wise to carry something like this. We sure hear of enough incidents of missing hikers, climbers, etc.
 

GrandmaBear

Deputized Emu Slayer/Horse Thief Hunter
This was also an area with recent wildfires. He was lost and off-trail, and even climbed up to a remote ridgeline. He likely ran into / through some soot. But I do agree his legs just kinda look dirty and sweaty.

"so many of the trees and signs in the area had been burned by wildfire and were destroyed" - Rene Compean’s picture of his soot-streaked legs mobilized SoCal hiking community and saved his life
That would make sense too. Never thought of wildfires. It did say he was disoriented or something like that.
 

Kimster

Let's Find Michael Bryson!
Staff member
He's damn lucky he was able to get cell phone reception!

I carry one of these, a Garmin InReach:
View attachment 10963

Depending on which subscription you get / how much you want to pay, you can get them to track your position, have two-way GPS text messaging, an SOS button, location sharing, weather forecasts, navigation, and more.

I most recently used it to send out a message to my dad when I was backpacking solo. Simply, "Made it to camp safely. Here is my location." with GPS coordinates. Would have been impossible without this because I had no cell service.

I passed this on to my DIL. She doesn’t have one but she said she needs one.
 

SheWhoMustNotBeNamed

Administrator
Staff member
I passed this on to my DIL. She doesn’t have one but she said she needs one.
Yes, they're great. Definitely worth the cost and the small monthly fee, IMO.
It was more for my dad's peace of mind than mine, but I'm very glad to have it. I hike and backpack solo 99% of the time. He said if I was going to continue doing that, I had to have this.
Pretty handy to be able to say "I've arrived" and include GPS units in case I don't return. Or even "I'm pressing my SOS button for another hiker. I'm not injured." Certainly would have been very beneficial for this man.
 

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