Second Ice Slip Death Of The Winter Season On Frigid Mt. Baldy Trail

Over the span of less than two weeks, two hikers on Mt. Blady were killed after falling and sliding on hard ice.
The identity of the first hiker to suffer a fatality this winter season has not been released.
The second victim was Crystal Paula Gonzalez-Landas, 56 of Covina, an experienced hiker and mother of four. She died under challenging conditions on January 8.
Gonzalez-Landas grew up in Covina and ran marathons in her teens and into her thirties. After a back injury, she reduced her running schedule and took up hiking more than a decade-and-a-half ago. She had hiked to the top of Mt. Baldy in the past and had also backpacked in the Sierras, hiking on one of those excursions to the peak of Mt. Whitney.In recent years, she had taken to videotaping portions of her hikes and posting the video snippets to her Facebook page. She made a video of herself as she began the January 8 hike in early morning darkness, while she was wearing a headlamp. She can be heard saying in the video clip, “It’s time to go. Lots of people out today.”
A bit later, after the sun has risen, Gonzalez-Landas captured a video that documented the dangerous conditions on the mountain that day. That video shows a column of ice flowing down the side of the mountain within yard of where she stood.
Gonzalez-Landas, who was in the company of others, covered a considerable distance up the 10,064-foot elevation mountain, at which point freezing temperatures, heavy winds and low cloud cover brought those in her party to the conclusion that it was unsafe to proceed. They turned back.
While she was on the rim of the Baldy Bowl, she slipped and fell down an ice chute more than 500 feet before hitting a tree.
She was severely injured, having suffered repeated trauma to her head and other parts of her body from the hard ice and tree.
The slickness of the ice made getting to her difficult.
Sheriff’s Dispatch received a call from the California Office of Emergency Services relaying distress message from a Garmin InReach device. The message reported that someone had fallen down the Baldy Bowl in Mt. Baldy. The Fontana Sheriff’s Station was contacted for immediate response. The sheriff’s aviation division was requested to assist in locating the fallen hiker using coordinates from the Garmin InReach device.
Sheriff’s patrol helicopter, 40 King, with pilot Deputy Doug Brimmer and tactical flight officer Deputy Jonathan Holt aboard, responded to the scene and visually located the endangered hiker with the provided coordinates. It was estimated that she slid 500 feet to 700 feet down the icy Baldy Bowl. Gonzalez-Landas was down on a steep and icy hillside, surrounded by numerous hikers attempting to render aid.
40 King hoisted Holt down to the scene to assess her injuries. The medic requested sheriff’s air rescue for a hoist and transport due to Gonzalez-Landas’s substantial injuries. Air Rescue 306 piloted by Deputy Doug Brimmer and carrying crew chief Deputy Greg Hanrahan, medic Eric Rose and medic Gordon Yee responded, but because of low clouds was delayed in being able to reach Gonzalez-Landas, not getting under the clouds until the fifth attempt.
As a landing was not possible and carrying Gonzalez-Landas was inadvisable because of the slope angle and the ice made it too dangerous to hike while carrying her, the craft lowered an additional medic and gear.
A decision to hoist her was made at that point and the crew began to construct a rope system to do so. However, given the extent of her injuries and her continuing exposure to the elements, Gonalez-Landas expired.
Shortly after, the weather cleared, allowing Air Rescue to complete the hoist. Gonalez-Landas’s body was flown to the sheriff’s aviation headquarters and subsequently transported to the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office.
“Our mother was a kind, loving, lively soul,” her daughters said in a statement. “She had a thirst for adventure that she instilled in all of us during our childhood. She inspired those who met her on the trails. She loved life and life loved her back. She’s known in the community for her fearless hikes, and daily dose of inspiration. More importantly she was an amazing mother of four, a sister and a friend to everyone she met. She is the personification of strength, love, and beauty.”
Sheriff’s deputies said that they average three to four rescues a week on Mt. Baldy and one to two every weekend during winter months. They emphasized that Mt. Baldy represents a hostile hiking environment in the dead of winter to even the most experienced of hikers and that challenging the mountain should only take place if hikers have the requisite equipment, including cramp-ons, head protection and warm clothing.
-Mark Gutglueck

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