SDMRT 2017-4 Mount Baldy Mutual Aid Operation Report

Date: 8 February 2017

SDMRT Responders: Bill McNaul, Steve Herman, Sean O’Grady, and Richard Yocum

Mt Baldy, San Gabriel Mountains: Yucheng Jia

On 7 February 2017 at 2225 hours SDMRT was notified by callout of a Cal OES mutual aid request for Type I alpine searchers the following day on 8 February to search for missing hiker 26-year-old Yucheng Jia. He was described as a “loner,” which was the explanation provided for why he was not reported missing until 7 February, even though his hike took place on 4 February. He was known to be at least an occasional hiker in the Mt Baldy area, and a search of social media had disclosed a GPS tracks posting of his having completed the “Baldy loop.” Nothing was known about his intended route on 4 February, but his vehicle was located in Manker Flats, near the trailhead for the Mt Baldy Ski Hut. Most social media postings showed him hiking in jean and sneakers and it was presumed that he was not well prepared to spend a night on the mountain. A search effort covered a few limited areas that evening but was impaired by darkness.

Bill McNaul, Steve Herman, and Richard Yocum from SDRMT carpooled and arrived at the CP at the Mt Baldy Fire Station, 6730 Mt Baldy Road, in time for the 0700 hours briefing. Sean O’Grady responded that morning and drove separately. Responding in addition to San Bernardino SAR and SDMRT were West Valley, San Dimas, Riverside, and Sierra Madre SAR teams, for an estimated 15 searcher overall.

Richard, Bill and Steve were assigned as one team to a mission lasting up to 12 hours to hike up the Ski Hut Trail, visually check all side chutes and ravines, ascend to the top of the switchbacks to the west, look for clues and evidence of slides or disturbance, search the bowl with a high POD especially in areas of any evidence of recent avalanche, and also cover the top of San Antonio Canyon in case the hiker had veered south below the hut.

Helos for high elevation insertion of several teams were delayed by fog in the valleys, but finally arrived on site. On its approach to the LZ, one helo sighted a body below the north side of Devil’s Backbone. One of only two teams having been deployed at that point, the SDMRT team was radioed to return to base after hiking only about ½ hour. Sean arrived at the CP only minutes after the team returned at approximately 1000 hours. Body recovery efforts were underway when the SDMRT personnel were signed out.

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