Mt. Baldy danger: More than 100 rescue, 10 deaths in recent years. A new push to save lives

Helicopter pilots during a rescue operation
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s air rescue operation made another rescue in Icehouse Canyon near Mt. Baldy. Sheriff Shannon Dicus wants new restrictions on access to the peak to help save lives.
(San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department)

After more than 100 rescues and at least 10 deaths on Mt. Baldy since 2020, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus is asking legislators and the U.S. Forest Service to implement new measures to restrict access to the 10,064-foot peak in Angeles National Forest in hopes of saving lives.

In January alone, 15 hikers were injured or lost on the mountain, and two hikers were killed, officials said.

Dicus said he has reached out to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), whose district includes Mt. Baldy, but said in a statement Wednesday that he was “disappointed” that more hasn’t been done to save lives on the peak.


“Despite numerous discussions with USFS, Sheriff Shannon Dicus is disappointed these measures proposed have not been implemented,” the statement read. “Sheriff Dicus hopes with the support of U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu and USFS, whose jurisdiction includes the Mt. Baldy area of the San Gabriel Mountains, legislation can be enacted to save lives.”

In a statement, Chu said her staff has reached out to Dicus.

“I’m ready to have a serious and productive discussion on this with the sheriff, and my staff has reached out to schedule a meeting as soon as possible to evaluate available next steps and ensure the Forest Service has the resources it needs to manage the safety of hikers at Mt. Baldy,” Chu said in the statement.

The treacherous but familiar nature of Mt. Baldy, which attracts experienced and unprepared hikers alike with its proximity to Los Angeles, was most recently highlighted with the disappearance of actor Julian Sands in January. Numerous unsuccessful searches were launched until his remains were found in June.

The hikers who found actor Julian Sands’ remains in a remote canyon on Mt. Baldy in June are haunted by what was missing from his safety gear.

Aug. 10, 2023

The mountain’s proximity has also given visitors a false sense of security, making the mountain one of the nation’s deadliest peaks, according to experienced climbers.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has spent $3 million in rescue operations on the mountain over the last five years, according to the department, although the region falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.

“The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department plays a critical role in locating and rescuing lost and injured hikers in the treacherous Mt. Baldy area,” the statement reads.


The Forest Service is committed to working with neighboring departments and the public to promote safe outdoor recreation, officials said in a statement, but pointed out the federal agency does not have the authority to fund, or reimburse, neighboring local and state agencies when they are required to respond to rescues.

USFS does enter in cooperative agreements with local law enforcement to reimburse them for law enforcement activities, “but these reimbursements are not expected to supplant state or local obligations,” officials said.

Officials said in the statement that USFS will continue to work with state and county officials to address the costs of rescue operations at the mountain.

The searches have also resulted in lost lives, the Sheriff’s Department notes.

In 2019, a nine-year search-and-rescue veteran with the department, Tim Staples, was separated during the search for a missing hiker. He became lost and was killed in a fall.

Mt. Baldy towers over Southern California, beautifully decked with snow. Easy access helps make it one of the three deadliest peaks in the U.S. This winter, rescue crews have been busy.

Feb. 2, 2023

Sheriff’s officials said they’ve been in contact with the U.S. Forest Service and have asked for measures, such as implementing a permit process so that law enforcement officials are aware of the number of people on the mountain at any point.

The department has also asked for the Forest Service to educate the public about hiking, navigation skills, nutrition, hydration and emergency shelter before heading up the mountain. The department has also asked for the agency to notify visitors about the lack of cellphone service.


“Despite the efforts made by various local and federal agencies to maintain the safety of hikers, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department believes that more needs to be done by the Forest Service to implement effective measures prioritizing hiker safety,” read a letter from Dicus to Chu’s office, dated Aug. 1.

Congress is in a six-week recess and will return Sept. 12.

According to a spokesperson from the Sheriff’s Department, talks with Chu’s office about Mt. Baldy have “stalled,” but the department is still hoping to work with the congresswoman to find a solution.

In the statement, Chu said the letter from Dicus was the first written correspondence to her office regarding safety conditions in the mountain.

“I welcome the opportunity to discuss how to protect the public’s safety in San Bernardino County with Sheriff Dicus, and I appreciated receiving the first written correspondence from him last week on the perilous hiking conditions on Mt. Baldy,” Chu said.