Second 2017 Death On Devil’s Backbone Matches 2016’s Mortal Total

Mt. Baldy’s treacherous Devil’s Backbone claimed another life last Saturday, the fourth death there in the last 13 months.
Lloyd Charton, 69, died after he pitched off the trail.
According to the sheriff’s department, “On Saturday, March 11, 2017, the San Bernardino County sheriff’s aviation division was advised by fire dispatch of a fall victim who fell while hiking the Devil’s Backbone in the Mount Baldy area.”
The crew of Air Rescue 307, consisting of pilot corporal Jon Anderson, crew chief reserve deputy Wayne Hess, air medic Steve Miller and air medic Dr. Jeff Grange M.D., responded to the area shortly after the call came in at 10:48 a.m. and located two victims, Charton and Trevor Anthes, 42 of Bishop, approximately 300 feet down from the trail in a very steep and rocky portion of the mountain.
“Due to the inaccessible terrain, the crew determined a hoist rescue would be required for each of the victims,” according to the sheriff’s department. Miller and Grange were lowered to the victims. “Charton was found to be deceased while Anthes was found to have serious non-life threatening injuries sustained while trying to provide aid to Charton,” according to the department. “Anthes was placed in a rescue harness, hoisted up to the helicopter and transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center for treatment. The crew later returned and recovered the deceased and transported him to the coroner.”
The Devil’s Backbone is a seven-tenths of a mile-long trail that stretches along a rocky ridge east of the Mt. Baldy summit. This trail, which starts at its east end roughly 1.3 miles from the 7,800 foot level Baldy Notch, boasts some of the most spectacular views in the Mt. Baldy area. Most of the Devil’s Backbone trail is between four and five feet wide, though at spots it narrows to little more than 18 inches across. Along one stretch of the Devil’s Backbone, the drop-off on one or both sides is very precipitous. Under dry conditions in the late spring, summer and fall, a hiker who happens to fall from that portion of the trial would most likely be able arrest his descent after a few yards and, with some effort, climb back up. In the winter, however, with both the top of the ridge and its sides coated with ice, even the strongest or the most skilled of climbers would be hard pressed to stop his downward slide and, having done so, climb the steep icy grade back to the top of the ridge.
To make matters worse, the winds are very strong in that area, gusting at times to 100 miles per hour. Indeed, the life expectancy of a hiker traversing the devil’s backbone in the winter, with the ground below his feet iced over and the howling wind buffeting him from unpredictable angles, is a fraction – and a minute fraction at that – of the life expectancy of those in the general population.
Scaling to the top of 10,064 Mount San Antonio, known colloquially as Mt. Baldy, is a rite of passage for dedicated hikers in Southern California. Modern day, serious, experienced and seasoned hikers who brave the climb to the peak of Mt. Baldy in the winter come outfitted properly with warm – i.e., woolen – clothes; broken-in hiking boots onto the bottoms of which are affixed crampons, traction devices with metal teeth that dig into the iced surface to prevent slippage; and an ice axe; not to mention communication devices such as a cell phone that can be used to summon help in an emergency.
Charton died a month and three days after the body of Yucheng Jia, 26, of Torrance was spotted near the Devil’s Backbone on February 8. Jia had been reported missing on February 7. He had gone hiking on February 4 and didn’t return. A sheriff’s department recovered his body on February 9 because the helicopter that originally located the corpse wasn’t equipped to recover a body and dangerous conditions led to a delay.
On January 16, a woman eluded death after she slipped from the Devil’s Backbone portion of the trail and slid an unspecified distance down the steep and ice-encrusted precipice. A San Bernardino County Fire department helicopter, Air Rescue 9, was dispatched to the scene, roughly two miles from the 10,064 elevation summit. After she was plucked from below the ridge, she was transported because of her injuries to Cow Canyon Saddle, where a ground ambulance unit retrieved her.
The mountain can be unforgiving to even the most experienced of adventurers.
Thirteen months ago, again in the dead of winter, two people lost their lives on the frigid and unforgiving ice below the Devil’s Backbone within a span of three weeks. On February 2, 2016 Daniel Nguyen, 23, was walking along the Devil’s Backbone Trail around 7 a.m. with a friend when his companion slipped. Nguyen tried pulling his friend to safety but as he did so, he himself slipped off the trail and down the mountainside, with fatal consequences.
A 45-year-old San Diego man whose identity was never released by authorities fell to his death while hiking across the Devil’s Backbone on Saturday February 20, 2016.

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