Two Hikers Dead, Actor Missing on California Mountain After Weeks of Extreme Weather

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department yesterday warned hikers to “think twice and heed warnings” before hiking on Mount San Antonio, better known as Mount Baldy, a peak in California’s San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. Baldy is just a few miles from the PCT and the trail town of Wrightwood, California.

Over the last four weeks, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams have responded to 14 rescue missions on Mt Baldy and in the surrounding area. These rescue missions have been for lost, stranded and/or injured hikers,” according to a Sheriff’s Department press release.

These rescues include two hikers who died in recent weeks after slipping and falling on ice in the mountains.

One of them was Crystal Paula Gonzalez, an experienced female hiker who fell an estimated 500 to 700 feet down an icy slope in Baldy Bowl to her death on January 8. Gonzalez had been documenting her hike and had already decided to turn back due to unsafe conditions when she slipped and fell. Numerous fellow hikers attempted to render aid, but Gonzalez succumbed to her injuries on the mountain.

Hoist operation January 8. Photo: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Rescuers are currently searching for actor Julian Sands, 65, of North Hollywood, who has been missing in the Mount Baldy area since last Friday. The search effort was hampered by poor weather and avalanche risk last weekend but has progressed as conditions allow. His car has been discovered near where he was reported missing. Sands, a self-described hiking enthusiast, is best known for roles in film and television shows including A Room With a View and Smallville.

Unfavorable Conditions for Hikers

Officials have for weeks urged the public to stay away from the Mount Baldy area. “Please know the current conditions on Mt Baldy are adverse and extremely dangerous,” reads a January 19 post on the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page. “Due to the high winds, the snow has turned to ice making hiking extremely dangerous. Sheriff’s Search and Rescue efforts are often hampered by poor weather along with dangerous avalanche conditions. The recent storms that brought the snow and ice conditions are not favorable for hikers, even those that feel they have a high level of experience.”

At 10,068 feet at its summit, Mount Baldy is the tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. Its location just 45 miles from downtown Los Angeles makes it a popular hiking destination for Southern California locals. However, during the winter months, conditions are frequently icy and snowy despite deceptively mild weather in Los Angeles, which sits just 305 feet above sea level.

A series of powerful storms this winter have dumped inches of rain in southern California and feet of snow in the mountains, rendering hiking conditions dangerous.

Hikers considering going to the Mount Baldy area should follow these tips to keep themselves safe:

• Heed all posted warning signs
• Look at weather conditions (both current and forecasted) for the area
• Make sure you have the proper gear, training and are properly prepared for alpine conditions (Crampons, ice axe, proper clothing)
• Hike with a partner
• Bring a tracking or GPS device such as a SPOT Device or INREACH Device
• Make sure your cell phone has a full charge and bring a charged extra power pack for it
• Let someone know where and when you are going, and what time you will be back
• Most importantly- If you don’t know, please don’t go!

Featured image: Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team.

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Comments 1

  • Nat : Jan 27th

    Calling the diseased hiker experienced is just an opinion and I think wrong in this case. She was not properly prepared with gear, and not wearing a helmet, and alone, I would consider these decisions made by an inexperienced hiker. Also a helmet should not be left out of the tips. This hiker’s lack of helmet is probably why she died as well as lack experience with self arrest skills. Also yes Mt. Badly is near Wrightwood on a map, but the trail between is not commonly used, not accessible half the year, and Mt. Baldy is located nearer to the town Mt. Baldy, an hour drive away from Wrightwood.


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