George Penca - Strange disappearances from U.S. National Parks

George Penca, disappeared June 17th 2011, top of Upper Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

George Penca, Yosemite Falls disappearance

On Friday June 17th, 2011, George Penca, 30, went hiking at the Upper Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park. George was from Hawthorne in California and was visiting the National Park with his church group of 80 people of which around 20 people were walking the Upper Yosemite Fall trail that day. 

The group separated at the top, with the hikers going back down at their own pace. George likely fell behind the main group. Penca's friends assumed he'd hiked back to the Yosemite Valley floor earlier and didn't report him missing until 9pm. George has vanished off the trail.

George Penca disappearance Yosemite falls

He was  5’ 10” tall, weighed 240 pounds, and had dark brown hair, blue eyes, a stocky build. He was last seen wearing grey sweatpants with white stripes, a black t-shirt that says “D&B” across the chest, or a black tank top, and grey/blue running shoes.  He was carrying a blue cloth bag and some limited food and water.

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View of Upper Yosemite Fall and Half Dome from Yosemite Falls Trail

View of Upper Yosemite Fall and Half Dome from Yosemite Falls Trail

The NPS website describes it as follows :"One of Yosemite's oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877), the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall, which rises 2,425 feet (739 m) above the Valley floor. This trail starts near Camp 4, along the Valley Loop Trail, and immediately begins its climb, switchback after switchback, through oak woodland. You will begin to climb above some trees and into exposed plateaus that offer you a glimpse of what's to come: great views of Yosemite Valley and its many iconic landforms. Do not stray off of the maintained path, as you will find steep drops adjacent to the trail. The upper half of the trail is steep and rocky, but the arduous climb is well worth the amazing views you will be rewarded with at the top."

Yosemite Falls Trail Yosemite National Park

Initial search efforts began on Friday night after he was reported missing and a  full-scale search and rescue operation was initiated on Saturday morning, June 18th. Around 105 Search and Rescue personnel from around the state were deployed, helicopters and six search dogs including Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue, Inyo County, Mono County, Mariposa County, Marin County, Fresno County, Tuolumne County, China Lake, Los Angeles County, Nevada County, Sierra Madre, Yosemite Search and Rescue Dog Teams, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and California Explorer Search and Rescue.

Weather conditions over the weekend were mild with overnight temperatures in the upper 40s.

On June 23, search efforts transitioned to a limited continuous search. After nearly one week of extensive searching, Park Rangers did not find any clues as to George's whereabouts. 

In the last six and a half years no trace of George Penca has been found. His bag, clothes or bones have never been located. A very strange disappearance!