SAR Member Dies On Mt Baldy

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SAR Member Dies On Mt Baldy

Postby bretpct » Sun Dec 15, 2019 8:05 pm

I know there are some SAR members who frequent here and just want acknowledge one who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Beloved community member dies searching for missing hiker in Southern California
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Re: SAR Member Dies On Mt Baldy

Postby Ed » Mon Dec 16, 2019 8:16 am

What an unnecessary tragedy. Or rather two unnecessary tragedies. Here is the last image of the missing hiker, if you have not seen it:

https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/friend-haunted-by-last-images-of-missing-hiker-on-mt-baldy/2275557/

Looks to me like about 7.5k on the Bear Flats Trail. From about 8k to 9k, that trail is not a hike in the winter, it is a climb. Even with an ice axe and self-arrest training, you can't be sure of a successful self-arrest if you fall on that narrow hogback at about 9k. A very experienced mountaineer, Ali Aminian, fell to his death around there in 2004. And now an SAR person. What was Mokkapati thinking, continuing on his own? While the image is not clear, I don't see trekking poles in his hands or an ice axe on his pack. Not that I would consider it safe to continue alone with them. He is only a few hundred feet below where you would expect to find a witch's brew of hard, slippery snow on steep slopes, plus deep, soft snow in other places.

And it looks suspiciously like the SAR team member lost his life when they surely knew they were no longer searching for a live person.

Mt. Baldy is a serious place in the winter. Even Ellen and Sally, fully equipped, very experienced, and in every way qualified to be on the mountain ran into trouble once, but fortunately had SPOT's and the good sense to use them. The statement that Mokkapati was an 'experienced hiker and knew the area' is fairly meaningless for winter conditions. I don't know how you keep unqualified people off the mountain in the winter, but you would think warning signs at the trailheads and a write-up on winter safety might help.
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Re: SAR Member Dies On Mt Baldy

Postby Wildhorse » Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:53 am

From the few details we know, the whole thing sounds like madness, like a bad dream. Maybe we will eventually know more that will make it seem less so. I feel sad to think about it.
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Re: SAR Member Dies On Mt Baldy

Postby Ed » Mon Dec 16, 2019 7:19 pm

An LA Times article:

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-14/rescue-worker-found-dead-mt-baldy-missing-hiker-search

Note the reference to the family of the missing hiker calling for more volunteers for the search on Wednesday evening, then the number of volunteers doubled. Despite the fact that common sense and experience tell us that by that time the search is for a body, not a live person. You don't expect the family to know or accept that, but surely the SAR people did.
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Re: SAR Member Dies On Mt Baldy

Postby zippetydude » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:43 pm

Adventurous people have misadventures. That's just how it happens. I may have mentioned this before, but I was doing San Gorgonio alone a few years ago and it was just too loose going up the main chute, so I went over to Jepson. I was at around 10,500' when the area I was on, not just me, began to slide. It was maybe a hundred feet across and I only slid about 30 feet...the longest 30 feet of my life. Winter conditions, even for people who are familiar with the area, are totally unpredictable. Ed, your words are words of wisdom. I have largely curtailed my winter adventures to simpler and safer areas to avoid both of the outcomes of this tragedy. I remember when Fernando, Steve and I went up once. It got icy at around 11,000 feet and Steve and I decided to save the summit for a different day. Fern went on up, and it took him over two extra hours to find a safe way down. It could easily have been a fatal decision, but each person makes their own choice. Like Wildhorse, I'm sad to see both individuals lost. Like the family, I understand what it's like to keep hoping in the face of a tragedy. Hope no one else falls on that icy dangerous slope.

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