Richard Judd

Authorities were seeking information Tuesday about Richard Judd, 72, who got separated from his hiking partner and was last seen Sunday in Yosemite backcountry about 15 miles from the popular trailhead junction at Happy Isles on the Merced River. Judd is at least the third person reported missing in Yosemite National Park in the past month.

Authorities were seeking information Tuesday about a 72-year-old man who got separated from his hiking partner and was last seen Sunday in Yosemite backcountry about 15 miles from the popular trailhead junction at Happy Isles on the Merced River.

Richard Judd is at least the third person reported missing in Yosemite National Park wilderness areas in the past month.

The body of endurance athlete and mountain runner Fred Zalokar, 61, of Reno, was recovered July 20 near the summit of 11,527-foot Mount Clark. The body of James Youngblom, 64, a popular Stanislaus State professor and experienced High Sierra backpacker, was found in LeConte Falls on the Tuolumne River on June 25.

Zalokar and Youngblom were on solo trips, each traveling alone in the backcountry, when they went missing. Zalokar was on a one-day attempt to climb Mount Clark. Youngblom was on a multi-day journey that included passing through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

Judd was not alone, according to the National Park Service and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. His hiking partner was not identified by local law enforcement or federal park investigators. Judd’s hometown was not disclosed by authorities seeking information about his disappearance.

Judd and his hiking partner were camped near Lower Merced Pass Lake when they went on a day hike toward Lower Ottoway Lake and Red Peak Pass on Sunday, according to the National Park Service and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. They got separated from each other somewhere between Lower Merced Pass Lake and Lower Ottoway Lake.

Lower Merced Pass Lake is about 15 miles from Happy Isles, the trailhead where people can start the Mist Trail and hike to the Half Dome cables. The hike from Lower Merced Pass Lake to Red Peak Pass is about 3.5 miles.

A vehicle belonging to Judd or his hiking partner was parked at the Quartz Mountain trailhead, in the Sierra National Forest and outside Yosemite National Park, about 23 miles south of Lower Merced Pass Lake.

Authorities described Judd as 5 feet 11 inches tall, 150 pounds, with brown eyes, short gray hair, and a beard. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt and gray or blue pants. 

Anyone with information about Judd was urged to call or text the NPS Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at (888) 653-0009.

Fatalities in Yosemite National Park this year include “Alice” Yu Xie, who went walking to the Upper Yosemite Fall overlook in mid-January and was found deceased at the base of the 1,430 vertical-foot cataract on Jan. 16, one day after she was reported overdue.

Xie was identified by the park service as a 41-year-old Chinese national living in the United States, who came to Yosemite on a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System bus from Mariposa on Jan. 14.

The park averaged between 16 and 17 fatalities per year from 2014 to 2019, according to park service statistics. Over that same span of time, Yosemite Search and Rescue personnel conducted an average of 240 missions annually.

There were 133 deaths in the park from 2007 to 2018, the second-highest total among national parks after Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Colorado River in Arizona and Nevada, which had 201 deaths, according to a 2020 analysis by Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm with offices in Nevada and California. 

Yosemite was the 14th most deadly national park when factoring in the number of visitors, with 28.01 deaths per 10 million visits.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.