Larry Bishop had climbed some of California's highest peaks -- Whitney, Shasta and Langley, each higher than 14,000 feet -- so 10,311-foot Dog Tooth Peak in eastern Fresno County should have been easy.
"It was just a little peak," he said. "I go up these all the time."
But the Santa Barbara County man nearly lost his life a week ago while descending Dog Tooth Peak, when he became trapped on the side of a granite ridge. He had to wait 52 hours for rescue by a Fresno County sheriff's search team as he clung to a precarious ledge.
Bishop, 64, of Buellton, had left his pack and water at the base of the peak, which is in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, and climbed to the top in just 15 minutes on July 27. But when he decided to take a different route down, his day hike turned into a nightmare.
He thought he was taking a short cut he had read about on the Internet, but he encountered steep rock faces. He slid down, assuming he would reach the area where he had left his pack.
"It became a cliff-like situation and where I ended up was much steeper. I couldn't go back up, so I tried to inch my way down."
On the way down he hit his head and scraped his back. Worried about an uncontrolled slide, Bishop planted himself in a small hole and waited.
Daytime gave way to nightfall and temperatures dropped into the low 50s, he said, making sleep uncomfortable.
The next morning he expected to see a squadron of helicopters,
"I saw a little depression in the rock below with a bowl, so I would be in the open and could sit in that little bowl," he said. "I was going to inch my way down, and as soon as I started I shot down there like an arrow."
He ended up on a perch 50 feet below his first, with a 200- to 300-foot drop below.
Bishop stayed there as the day wore on. He was getting dehydrated and found small green plants with lupine-like flowers that became his only meal over the next two days.
"They were pretty tasty, but they had no water in them," he said. "They tasted like an herb."
He was starting to weaken, and help still wasn't in sight.
He didn't know his fellow hiker, Cerena Childress, 66, of Santa Barbara, who decided not to go with him up Dog Tooth Peak because of a nose bleed, was getting help. She had walked to Courtright Reservoir, about 10 miles away, and called 911.
As he became more dehydrated and weaker, Bishop said he started seeing mirages -- people with tents who couldn't hear him below and helicopters observing him and then leaving.
After 52 hours of being stranded, delusional and weak, Bishop was starting to lose his hold on the ledge. Then he saw rescuers in orange suits below him, and these were real.
Bishop said he was yelling -- maybe mumbling -- for help.
"When I saw those orange suits I had a surge of adrenaline," Bishop said.
Rescue volunteer Russ Richardson, who works for American Ambulance, said Bishop had blended into the surrounding ridge and was difficult to see, but a Fresno County sheriff's deputy heard his moans.
As deputy David Rippe hiked up, Richardson attempted to reach Bishop from another side. Within a few minutes, Rippe, who was operating without safety lines, managed to secure Bishop with a sling; once secured, Bishop went limp, Richardson said.
"Rippe had to take a calculated risk," Richardson said. "If he didn't do something, this man was going to die."
Bishop's injuries are "similar to someone who had been in a motorcycle accident and slid across the pavement," Richardson said.
But the injuries are not permanent, Bishop said.
"I imagine there are some bikers who would look at me and say, 'That's not a real road rash,' " he said.
Bishop is grateful to his rescuers and hiking partners. And while Dog Tooth Peak wasn't the highest mountain he has scaled, Bishop said it's definitely the most memorable.
"It's not something I want to repeat," he said. "Let's just say it's off my bucket list now."
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