Things can get pretty lonely when you’re stranded on the side of a cliff for 52 hours. Lawrence Bishop, a 64-year-old hiker, now knows that better than anyone else. He clung to the side of sheer cliff face in California’s Sierra National Forest for longer than two days without food or water and barely a shelter. He ate plants to survive and just hoped rescuers would come sooner than later.
Just before rescuers arrived, Bishop was in despair and had begun hallucinating.
“I’ve never been in position to say, you know, ‘How much am I willing to do to stay alive?’” He then wrote goodbye letters to his wife and daughter.
Bishop, an experienced hiker and also the head of parks and recreation in Santa Barbara, California, was hiking and camping with friends when he became separated from the group on Thursday, July 26. He saw some children on top of Dog Tooth Peak so he climbed it, took photos with them and began his way back down the peak.
That’s when he slipped as he was climbing down the perilous granite face of the cliff. He fell backward and hit his head, Bishop told officials. He became stranded on smooth, slick granite plates.
“I just basically hoped I had the stamina and determination to bear the pain and hang on,” Bishop said. “I said, ‘I can’t get down this.’ I found a little hole in the rocks and I planted my butt there and my poles into the granite plates, and I anchored myself and thought, ‘Either I am going to get rescued or I am going to die here,’” he said.
By Friday, he thought no one would ever see him. In an attempt to inch down to a spot where he could sleep, he skinned his left side, butt and right arm and tore up his elbows.
From the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office press release,
Shortly before 4:00pm [on Saturday], searchers were on the sheer polished granite back side of the peak when they heard what they thought was a moan. They called out but there was no response. Eagle One, who was flying above, moved out of the area so searchers could hear. Again they heard moaning and then saw movement which turned out to be Bishop. He was dangling on a small ledge, exhausted and close to falling. The slope of the mountain was estimated to be 65-70 degrees, and Bishop would not have survived a fall.
Seeing that Bishop could lose his grip at any time, one deputy left his position of safety and with no safety ropes, free climbed across the granite to Bishop. Once there, the deputy discovered that Bishop was conscious and breathing, and had suffered a fall. The deputy was able to better secure Bishop and himself on the ledge, assess Bishop’s condition, and perform first aid.
Bishop was flown to the Community Regional Medical Center where he was treated for injuries and released the following morning.
Below, view ABC News coverage of the incident. Bishop speaks about his experiences in the video.
Image courtesy of Fresno County Sheriff's Office