No Sign Yet Of Lost Hiker Now Missing For Fifth Day On Snowpacked Mt. Baldy

An intensified search for a lost hiker on Mt. Baldy had entered its fourth day today, with no sign of his whereabouts in the unforgiving terrain of the treacherous mountain that has claimed the lives of dozens of those who have braved it during the inclemency of winter over the years.
Though the official onset of winter will not come until the December 22 solstice, severe winter conditions enshroud the San Gabriel Mountains, with most high-altitude trails covered with waist-deep snow or slick ice.
Sreenivas Mokkapati, 52 of Irvine, said to be an experienced hiker, embarked with three colleagues on Sunday, December 8 from 4,324‬-foot elevation Bear Flats, determined to follow a steep trail that would take the party to the 10,064-foot summit of Mt. Baldy, involving an ascent of 5,740 feet in six miles, a challenging hike.
The Bear Canyon Trail does not involve the more popular and less grueling route from Manker Flats to the Baldy Ski Hut and then across the highly dangerous Devil’s Backbone, but it does entail a continuously angled route that is exposed for much of its distance, together with occasional sheer drop-offs on either side that are as terrifying as those on the Devil’s Backbone.
Mokkapati was said to have been well-equipped, with an extra pair of shoes and woolen socks in his backpack. He was wearing warm clothing, including a gray jacket and cargo pants. At some point he became separated from his companions.
On Tuesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Team was in the area, having plucked two stranded hikers off of the Devil’s Backbone. It was at that point that the search for Mokkapati began in earnest.
Conditions on the mountain are brutal, with high winds gusting to more than 40 miles an hour, daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s, with nighttime temperatures dropping into the 30s and 20s, with the windchill factor lowering that to near zero degrees Fahrenheit.
By press time today, Mokkapati had not been located. An even more intensive search is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning, involving more than 100, with volunteer searchers and Alpine teams from Los Angeles, Riverside and Kern counties joining with their counterparts from San Bernardino County.

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