Teams hunt for missing Yosemite hiker, 73

pguerra@modbee.comMay 7, 2013 

— Rangers were searching Monday for a hiker who went missing at Yosemite National Park the day before.

According to the National Park Service, Kenneth Stensby, 73, left a note stating that he was hiking to the top of Vernal Fall on Sunday. He did not return, but his pack was found at the railing at the top of Vernal Fall.

Rangers described Stensby as an avid hiker from Edina, Minn., who had been staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

He left a note early Sunday informing hotel staff that he was leaving for the hike and expected to be back at the Ahwahnee by noon, park officials said.

Rangers found Stensby's dark- colored North Face day pack at the top of Vernal Fall near the guardrails, late in the day Sunday. The pack did not contain his camera.

Search and rescue workers looked along the Mist Trail corridor, from Happy Isles to the top of Vernal Fall. About 30 people and a dog team were involved in the effort.

The three-mile round-trip hike to Vernal Fall is among the park's most popular. Although this was a drier winter than usual, the falls are running strong this week, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.

The waterfall was the site of tragedy in July 2011, when three hikers from the Central Valley lost their lives. Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca, Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock and Hormiz "Nenos" David, 22, of Modesto were visiting the park on a day trip when they fell into the Merced River above Vernal Fall. All three went over the 317-foot waterfall.

Searchers recovered David's body a month later; the bodies of Badal and Yacoub weren't located until that December.

In 2011, a very wet winter left waterfalls throughout the park full most of the summer. "With the light snowpack this year," Gediman said in an email, "falls are expected to drop off significantly, as the melted snow becomes less and less."

Authorities are asking anyone who hiked the Mist or John Muir trails to Vernal or Nevada falls Sunday to email their name, phone numbers, itinerary and approximate time they were at the top of Vernal Fall to stensbysearch@yahoo.com.

Hikers are asked to check their photos for images of Stensby or his pack. Rangers ask anyone who saw Stensby or his pack, or might have a photo of him or his pack, to call (209) 372-0432.

Modesto Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.

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