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Sloane Canyon hikers share stories of survival after waiting 9 hours for rescue

Posted at 9:03 PM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-30 18:34:05-05

Three men narrowly survived a terrifying hike in the East County after this weekend's torrential downpour trapped them for hours. 

"It looked great, it looked beautiful outside when we got there," said hiker Isaac Hernandez. The view from the top of Sloane Canyon near Sycuan Casino looks impressive. "As we reached the top, all hell from there," he said.

Saturday was a bad day to go hiking. San Diego County experienced heavy rainfall and Dehesa was no exception. 

"Next thing you know, the rain just comes in," said hiker Braxton Aldama. "We start hiding in the cave."

The heavy downpour trapped Hernandez, Aldama and their cousin, who was too traumatized to return to the trail.

"All the rocks were high angle, and very slippery," said Hernandez.

Aldama had scrapes on his hands and leg from losing his footing and sliding down 10 feet into a pool of water. He hit his head and was unconscious for a couple of minutes.

The young men only had service on one of their cell phones. A three-percent charge was just enough to call 911 and pass along their GPS coordinates to a dispatcher.

"We would've been up there all night long," said Aldama. "They said we would've possibly died from hypothermia," added Hernandez.

Rescuers from the sheriff's office found the men. Two helicopters tried hoisting them up, but turned away because of the bad weather.

"I was hopeless, honestly very hopeless, started praying," said Hernandez.

Nine hours later, the men rappelled down the mountain to safety.

"They thought they were going to bring us out in body bags," said Aldama.

The trio skipped the hospital because they were too eager to get home to their families. "My mom was throwing up," said Aldama. 

They say next time, they'll watch for the forecast and be prepared.

"My grandma says she swore she told me it was going to rain before we left and I don't remember her saying that," said Aldama. 

The sheriff's office says the men won't be billed for the cost of the rescue because they don't want to dissuade anyone from ever calling for help in a situation like this.