Climbers find remains in Rock Creek cave, Inyo County investigates
Two local climbers, Devyn Durham and Charlie Barrett, made the discovery of a lifetime when they were scouting a crag in Rock Creek Canyon on Sunday, July 16. While seeking shelter from a rainstorm in a cave, the two men stumbled upon possibly decade-old human remains.
“I’ve been hiking around Rock Creek for 15 years,” said Barrett this week. “I’ve been in the Sierra since ’99, this is my 18th summer of backpacking, peak bagging, looking in crannies, and this is definitely a first for me.”
The two, who have been climbing partners for years, had decided to check out some potential routes in the area, which is only about a half a mile from the Mosquito Flat trailhead. It was a spur of the moment jaunt. They hadn’t checked the weather. It began to rain. They tried to take shelter in one cave that was too small for both of them, so they tried a second cave.
“The crazy thing was…there was this rad-looking cave to the right and we thought that’d be a cool spot to hang out, but for some reason we didn’t,” said Barrett.
Once inside the cave, located in a talus field just a few hundred yards above the trail, the men noticed a makeshift wall of rocks. At first they were worried they’d stumbled upon a bear den, but “the way the rocks were placed was way too human,” said Barrett.
“So [Barrett] pulled out the flashlight on his phone, screamed, and ran out of the cave,” said Durham, laughing. “And I’m sitting in the back of the cave and the [wall of rocks is] between us, and I’m thinking it’s a mountain lion and he’s just left me in here alone with it!”
Barrett said that when he peered over the stacked rocks, he couldn’t see anything at first. He was looking into a crevice about four feet deep. “The skull was the first thing I saw…Devyn followed me out of the cave and I said, “Dude. There’s a human skull inside that cave.’”
Durham and Barrett took a few deep breaths outside, then double checked what they’d found. Durham took a photograph of the macabre discovery and the two decided they needed to drive back down to Tom’s Place to notify the police.
They did some contemplating of life and death first, Durham said with a grin. “I feel like it got pretty deep there for little bit.”
“One of the first things Devyn said,” said Barrett, “He looks at me and said, ‘Dude, we just had a ‘Stand by Me’ moment.’”
“I think we hugged it out,” said Durham, who subsequently reported the discovery to the authorities.
An Inyo County Sheriff’s deputy hiked back out to the location with Durham the same day, followed by Inyo County Search and Rescue and more Sheriff’s deputies on July 17, said Carma Roper, Public Information Officer for the Inyo National Forest.