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Hiker’s Body Recovered From Mount Baldy

Crews, medic extract body rom icy terrain
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Workers struggle to bring back the body of Michelle Yu, who died while hiking on Mt. Baldy. (credit: CBS)

Workers struggle to bring back the body of Michelle Yu, who died while hiking on Mt. Baldy. (credit: CBS)

MOUNT BALDY (CBS) — A body believed to be that of a 49-year-old Venice woman was removed Thursday from a steep, rugged, ice-covered area in the Fish Fork drainage northwest of Mount Baldy’s summit on the Los Angeles County side of the mountain.

The body, confirmed to be that of a female adult, was located Wednesday afternoon, but the remote mountainside was considered so treacherous that search supervisors and helicopter crewmen opted to leave the body where they found it until Thursday.

Crews from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Emergency Services Detail recovered the body about 10:30 a.m. using the department’s Air 5 helicopter, sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s office will determine the identity and the cause of death.

Michelle Yu, described by friends as an experienced mountaineer who trained and hiked regularly on Mount Baldy, had last been heard from Saturday.

She’d started up the Ski Hut-Baldy Bowl trail above Manker Flats and signed a trail register about 8:30 a.m. that day, according to search supervisors.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports

Yu indicated she planned to ascend 4 1/2 miles to Baldy’s summit, then descend to Baldy Notch by way of the Devil’s Backbone trail, where she planned to ride the ski lift or walk down the maintenance road to her car, search supervisors said.

But Yu never returned, and her roommate reported her missing Sunday.

Starting that afternoon, scores of alpine-trained volunteers from several Southern California counties arrived in Mount Baldy Village to join the organized search for Yu.

Though she normally went out for day hikes and climbs with little or no overnight gear, friends and family of Yu described a tough woman who could survive for days in the mountains if necessary.

On Wednesday afternoon, a sheriff’s helicopter crew picked up a search team in the Fish Fork area and spotted a body on the side of the mountain, said Jodi Miller of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The steep, rugged terrain was covered in ice, and the pilot had to return to a landing zone, drop the search team and return with a medic, who was lowered to the body and confirmed the person was deceased, Miller said.

The body was located at an estimated 7,900 feet above sea level. Baldy’s summit is 10,064 feet, the high point in the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles County.

Authorities believe it may be Yu based on clothing and physical description.

The upper Fish Fork drainage that comes off Mount Baldy is a north-facing slope that retains ice and snow.

Described by mountain historian John W. Robinson in “Trails of the Angeles” as a “rugged, rock-ribbed chasm,” the Fish Fork of the San Gabriel River is one of the most isolated and wild recesses in the San Gabriel
Mountains.

“The canyon is wedged tightly between two high mountain ridges,” according to Robinson. “The long hogback of Pine Mountain Ridge on the north, the sawtoothed wall of San Antonio Ridge on the south.

“Looming high over its head is the gray mass of Old Baldy. Melting snows from the great mountain nourish the stream that swishes and tumbles and somersaults down the chasm…The air is crisp with elevation.”


(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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