5 Survival Lessons From the Northern California Man Lost in Yosemite For Nearly a Week

Photo by Jason Strull

When Alan Chow solo-hiked into the Yosemite National Park wilderness in the spring of 2018, he had only planned to stay for the weekend. But when a snowstorm covered the trail markings, Chow got lost and ended up staying in the wilderness area for 6 days.

When his coworkers noticed he hadn’t returned after his trip, the search was on, including 60 people from multiple agencies scouring Yosemite for him. It should be noted, that many of these searches end sadly.

Here is the social media post from Chow following his rescue:

He stayed lost in the wilderness through snowstorms that kept the search and rescue helicopters grounded. When the skies cleared, he was spotted by a helicopter near Wapama Fall, and was transported to the ranger station to be treated for light injuries and mild malnutrition.

Chow only packed for an overnight trip, but as an avid outdoorsman, when he realized he was lost, he turned to survival mode. Here are five things I learned about wilderness survival from Chow’s experience:

1. Stay Put

Chow knew he was seen by other hikers near his area. He knew that once people realized he was missing, the first place they would look is the area in the park he was seen last. So he set up his tent in an open area where he could be seen from the air. Many times, people will attempt to find their way out of the wilderness and get even more lost. His strategy was the best way to get found.

2. Pack the Right Equipment

During a Yosemite snowstorm, Chow managed to stay warm with the clothes and tent he had packed. If the equipment he had brought was not intended to be used in harsh conditions, he may have had a much more difficult time surviving the event. Although he was not planning to spend his trip in the snow, he was ready for it.

3. Conserve Energy

It may seem like Chow had a relaxing week in the wilderness, but it’s so crucial to conserve energy when lost in the wilderness. Sometimes, people may panic and try to hike out or create something drastic in order to be found. Conserving energy can allow you to ration food and be ready for any curveball the wilderness sends your way.

4. Ration Food

Chow was in a National Park with a wilderness permit, so it would be safe to assume that he would be found quicker than 6 days, right? Wrong. When you are lost in the wilderness, it’s imperative you treat your food rations like you’ll be there for much longer than expected. Only eat what you’ll need for energy (while you’re conserving energy).

5. Make a Water Plan

The most important aspect of Chow’s survival was his plan to have fresh water. He was lucky that he was in a snowstorm and able to melt the snow for drinking, but in case the snow had melted during the time he was there, he also found a water source to camp nearby. Again, always plan like you’ll be there for much longer than expected.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Learn how to survive before you take that trip! If you plan a weekend trip carry supplies for four days instead, yes it is heavy but planning to have extra food, correct clothing should the weather change, an extra pair of light weight shoes in case your regular boots become wet, and the essentials for survival can mean all the difference in the world. Look at this persons problems after being found, mild malnutrition. minor injuries. Always leave a detailed map of where you are traveling to and stick to that plan. in case you become stranded the searchers will have a good idea of where to start to search. Wear bright colored clothes, have a bright colored tent if possible and pack bright colored neckerchiefs (bandanas) to tie securely onto bushes to attract attention. Don’t plan on using a cell phone to call for help, cell phone coverage is spotty at best, but do carry emergency communication devices that transmit just for that purpose. Good planning is essential because in case of an emergency you are your own “911” responder!

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