Mt. Baldy to reopen on Christmas Day, after disappearance of hiker and death of rescuer

Snow-capped Mt. Baldy in 2016.
The setting sun casts a golden glow on Mt. Baldy in 2016. The mountain, closed since mid-December after a hiker went missing, reopens Wednesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

After a two-week closure while rescuers scoured Mt. Baldy in search of a hiker who went missing during a summit climb, the area is reopening to visitors on Christmas Day, earlier than expected.

Angeles National Forest officials announced Dec. 11 the mountain would close for the remainder of the month to ensure “every resource can be devoted” to the search for 52-year-old Sreenivas “Sree” Mokkapati, who went missing on Dec. 8.

Mokkapati, an Irvine resident, was climbing to Mt. Baldy’s summit with three other hikers but became separated from the group. His body has not been found. The search has officially been called off.


A week into the the search, a volunteer crew member, 32-year-old Tim Staples, was found dead in an ice chute after being separated form his search partner.

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, a public memorial for Staples is scheduled for Saturday at Abundant Living Church in Rancho Cucamonga. Sheriff’s officials could not be reached for more information Tuesday morning.

Staples taught social science and English at Damien High School in La Verne. He was a nine-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department’s West Valley search and rescue team.