3 Stranded Hikers on California's Mt. Baldy Were Saved Because They Were Prepared

Mt. Baldy regularly gets people into trouble. Photo: Wikipedia

The Inertia

Rescuers say that three hikers who got lost on Mt. Baldy, a 10,000-foot mountain outside of Los Angeles, California, owe their survival to their preparedness and planning. The Sierra Madre and San Dimas Search and Rescue Teams put out statements that highlighted the hikers adherence to safety principles such as leaving their hiking itinerary with a family member who knew how to reach rescue personnel, turning around when weather conditions deteriorated, possessing appropriate gear including a tent and sleeping bags, using rocks for shelter from 50-mile-per-hour winds, and bringing a whistle that helped locate them.

“We believe this preparation contributed directly to why these three hikers are alive and back home today,” the Sierra Madre team said in a Facebook post.

The hikers were reported missing on Mt. Baldy’s Bear Canyon Trail on Sunday February 4 after failing to return from their excursion. The hikers were able to contact rescue personnel themselves (it’s unclear if they used a satellite phone or a normal cell phone) and explain their predicament: they lost the trail due to heavy snowfall and ran out of daylight. Since the hikers were well-equipped with overnight supplies and nightfall and fog made rescue conditions difficult, rescuers instructed the hikers to shelter in place at a determined GPS point until the following day. A rescue team of eight hiked four miles and ascended 4,000 feet to reach the hikers around 1 p.m. on February 5. 

Meanwhile, on a separate Mt. Baldy trail, another solo hiker was also reported missing who, unfortunately, was not as lucky as the other three. On the afternoon of February 4, Lifei Huang did not return from her hike. After searches for Huang were unsuccessful, a week later, on February 11, her body was recovered in the upper San Antonio Creek Falls area after a civilian spotted the deceased hiker with a drone. The exact circumstances surrounding Huang’s death have not been divulged. 

The rescue efforts taking place over the weekend of February 4 came amid a strong “atmospheric river” that brought heavy rain and snow to California. The four-day weather event produced more than 13 inches of rain in parts of Los Angeles and several feet of snow and high winds in the adjacent mountains. The severe weather led California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in eight Southern California counties, including Los Angeles and San Bernardino, which straddle Mt. Baldy.

The Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team reminds hikers that the “ten essentials” list of gear can save lives if you unexpectedly have to spend a night in the elements, as was the case with the three hikers on Mt. Baldy.


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