Hiker Presumed Lost On Treacherous Mt. Baldy Found Alive

By the grace of Providence and the dogged perseverance of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Division in defiance of long odds, missing hiker Jin Chung has survived a three-day long ordeal in which it was widely surmised that he had joined Crystal Gonzalez-Landas, a mother of four from Covina, British film star Julian Sands and an as-yet-unidentified adventurer as the fourth death among those who had become lost while challenging treacherous 10,064-foot elevation Mt. Baldy this winter season. As it has turned out, however, Chung is yet alive after search and rescue members located the 75-year-old.
“Mr. Chung suffered some weather-related injuries and a leg injury but was able to walk out with the assistance of the crew members,” according to the sheriff’s department. “He was transported to a local hospital for treatment.”
No further information is currently available.
Chung was reported missing Sunday, after he had carpooled to the mountain with two others. Chung told those he had come with that he would meet them back at the vehicle at 2 p.m. that same day, but did not show at the appointed time.
The Sheriff’s Department is closing in on the second full week of the search for missing hiker, Julian Sands. Numerous ground and air search efforts have taken place in a so-far futile effort to find him.
“As of this time, Mr. Sands has not been found and no evidence of his current location has been discovered,” according to the sheriff’s department. “The search will continue, weather and ground conditions permitting.”
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Search and Rescue teams are comprised of trained citizen volunteers, who take on personal risk to help rescue lost and injured hikers. Many hikers, experienced or novice, underestimate the steep terrain, unpredictable weather, and high winds that present themselves the mountain areas. When combined, these circumstances and conditions place the hiker, search and rescue volunteers, and sheriff’s personnel at risk during dangerous search missions.
“Regardless of precautions taken by hikers, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department highly recommends hikers avoid hazardous mountainous areas, such as Mt. Baldy, at this time,” the department stated.
Exposure to the elements and falls contribute to Mt. Baldy’s growing mortality rate and the risk of avalanches prolongs rescue efforts. From 2017-2022, search and rescue teams conducted 233 missions on Mt. Baldy, with eight fatalities. Within that time frame, volunteers have searched 27,277 hours on Mt. Baldy, which equates to $775,578 estimated value, determined by the Office of Emergency Services.  From 2017-2022, sworn personnel and aviation support totaled 2,548 hours in service and $1.4 million in cost for Mt. Baldy rescue missions.
Although sworn personnel and civilian search and rescue volunteers brave the mountainous and snow-covered terrain, the area of Mt. Baldy lies within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, United States Forest Service (USFS). The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is committed to assisting with these search missions due to deficits in United States Forest Service staffing, resources, and funding. The closure of national parks and forestry is common in similar California terrains, due to extreme weather conditions. Following the 2019, in-the-line-of-duty death of search and rescue team member Tim Staples, former Sheriff John McMahon met with representatives from Congress in Washington D.C. and collaborative departments to implement temporary closures of remote and dangerous areas during severe weather conditions. Current  Sheriff Dicus supports closure of trails, as necessary due to extreme weather conditions. However, the sheriff’s current focus is on working with legislators to secure additional funding for the United States Forest Service, to implement a permit process for hikers visiting local mountains and rangers on the trails, to educate, ensure hikers have the proper equipment and training, and enforce the permits.
Sheriff Dicus said he is committed to public safety and will continue working with his department’s counterparts with the United States Forest Service and federal legislators to find solutions for managing the county’s vast wilderness. The sheriff’s department continues to urge the public to use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary hiking during dangerous winter weather.

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