The Union Democrat
The hikers had no way to call 911; until they found another hiker’s cellphone
LOS ANGELES — After Matthew Jaurequi lost his footing on an icy trail and began to slide, his friend tried to grab him.
Both hikers coasted about 150 feet down from Icehouse Saddle near Mount Baldy on Tuesday, losing their cellphones during the precipitous descent, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Coming to rest near a tree, they had no way to call for help — until they spotted a phone lying in the snow, said Doug Brimmer, a deputy pilot with the Sheriff’s Department.
It had 1% battery — enough to dial 911.
The phone, it turned out, had been there since last week, after another hiker lost it in a similar tumble.
Jaurequi, 38, was the fourth hiker rescued from the area in a week, Brimmer said.
Typically, rescues are more common in the Mount Baldy summit area. But recent snowfall on Icehouse Canyon, southeast of Baldy’s mighty peak, has created a slippery trap.
“The trail turns into a little ice chute,” said Brimmer, who helped with rescues on Saturday and Sunday. “So you’re walking on the trail one minute. Next minute, you’re sliding down the mountain.”
Jaurequi and several other hikers lost their footing despite wearing microspike-style devices on their shoes.
Hiking in steep, rugged terrain blanketed in ice or snow without crampons, which are clamped to footwear for ice climbing, and an ice axe, along with proper training to use them, “can lead to serious injury or death,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Jaurequi was hoisted into a sheriff’s helicopter from his remote, perilous position about 7,600 feet above sea level. His friend was able to climb back up to the trail and hike out on his own.
The phone’s owner, Nicholas Ardoin, was found Dec. 16 by sheriff’s aviation rescuers, clinging to a tree. Ardoin, 32, of Encinitas was injured and unable to move.
Two days later, 27-yearold Patrick Murphy of Los Angeles coasted down about 100 feet near Ontario Peak and was unable to make his way back up, even with ice gear. He was located using GPS coordinates gleaned from his 911 call.
The next day, something similar happened to Jeaffreson Guevara, who was hiking with his wife along the saddle when the snowcovered trail suddenly gave way.
Guevara, 45, slid about 900 feet before grabbing on to some bushes.
While recuperating in bed Tuesday, the Los Angeles County resident described the descent “like going to a roller coaster — down.”
He was badly bruised, sore and temporarily unable to walk or work but escaped without head trauma or other life-threatening injuries.
Brimmer stressed that hikers should carry a cellphone and a battery pack.
“Without that cellphone, with us searching for you — sure, we’ll send helicopters, we’ll send ground teams,” he said. “But it could take awhile.”