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Climate and Environment

Ground Search For Missing Actor Julian Sands On Pause Due To Approaching Winter Storm

A man with light-tone skin and hair is grinning while standing between two women. He wears a dark navy suit jacket and floral pattern tie.
Julian Sands pictured at an event at the British Consul General’s Residence in L.A. in 2012. He has been missing in the San Gabriel Mountains since Jan. 13.
(Frazer Harrison
Getty Images)
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Authorities said any further ground searches for actor Julian Sands are on pause ahead of an incoming winter storm and continued aerial searches of the Mount Baldy area may also be affected by bad weather.

Sands, 65, was reported missing more than five weeks ago after setting out on a solo hike and failing to return Jan. 13.

About the search so far

On Feb. 18, more than 20 members of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Fontana Station and the West Valley Search and Rescue Team conducted a ground search ahead of this week's anticipated storm.

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They focused on an area where the California Highway Patrol's RECCO device — rescue technology that detects reflective materials, electronic devices and in some cases, credit cards — picked up a hit from a possible electronic device on Jan 25. Nothing was discovered that would lead to finding Sands.

"The storm that is coming is going to impact our ground searches for sure," said Gloria Huerta, a spokesperson with the sheriff's department. "And it will affect our aviation, our aerial searches as well, because along with the storm comes the snow, the rain, the wind, and all those play factors in whether or not our aviation division can get up there."

Huerta said ground searches will resume after the storm has passed and if the conditions allow for safe hiking. She added that because Sands was an experienced hiker, they are not giving up on the idea that he's still alive.

San Bernardino County sheriff's officials initially had switched to an aerial search on Jan. 25, more than two weeks after Sands first went missing. At the time they said they hoped California Highway Patrol personnel would be able to use high-tech tools to pinpoint a location for additional ground searches.

Sands, whose family says is an experienced mountaineer, set out by himself to hike the Mount Baldy area.

About other missing hikers

Snow capped mountains are seen against a cloudless blue sky as a seagull flies in the right corner
A view to snow capped San Gabriel Mountains in late January. Authorities have advised for many weeks that hiking in the area is not advised due to dangerous conditions.
(Michael Heiman
Getty Images)

Authorities this weekend reported that the body of another hiker who went missing the same day as Sands had been recovered near Mount Islip, another popular hiking destination in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Bob Gregory, 62 of Hawthorne, was reported missing on Jan. 13 — the same day as Sands — after he also left on a solo hike.

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A third solo hiker reported missing around the same time was located alive with minor injuries in late January, and another man was rescued after falling more than 50 feet. He was able to call for help using a satellite device he was carrying.

And there have been two other deaths since late December, one on the day of Christmas Eve and the other Jan. 8, both women who slid on ice and fell to their deaths.

How often are rescues needed on Mount Baldy?

The department reports:

  • 233 missions on Mount Baldy between 2017-2022
  • 8 fatalities
  • More than 27,000 hours by volunteer rescuers
  • More than 2,500 hours by sworn officers, including air support, totally $1.4 million in cost

About conditions in the Southern California mountains

Both snow and high winds have made hiking potentially dangerous so far this year, with more rain and snow forecast for this week.

Some factors to keep in mind from LAist reporter Jill Replogle's recent report: Here's Why It's Especially Dangerous To Hike SoCal Mountains Right Now

  • Conditions are legit dangerous right now.
  • Southern California doesn't get high snow levels often enough for hikers to have the winter experience — and gear — they need to stay safe. 
  • Few, if any, companies and organizations in SoCal offer winter outdoor training. 
  • Close proximity to a massive urban area — and a usually warm one — can lead to overconfidence. 

    Hiking tips

    Be prepared!
    • Always plan for the worst and hope for the best. Carrying a few extra items can save your life. At a minimum, always carry the "10 Essentials":

        • Extra food and water (more than you think you'll need)
        • Extra clothing (more than you think you'll need)
        • Map and compass (know how to use them)
        • Flashlight or headlamp (plus extra batteries)
        • First-aid kit
        • Fire-starting kit
        • Pocket-knife or multi-tool
        • Signaling device (mirror or whistle)
        • Sunscreen and sunglasses
        • Emergency shelter (emergency blanket or bivy sack)
      1. MORE TIPS

        • Before you leave home, always tell a friend or family member where you plan on going and when you plan to return. Leave them with instructions on what to do if you don't return on time.
        • In case of an unexpected problem or emergency, always have a back-up plan for escaping the area safely. Also provide this back-up plan with your friends or family before you leave.
        • Although it's sometimes nice to be alone in the outdoors, it's always safest to go with at least one or two partners, especially if you're a novice or unfamiliar with the area.
        • Have the appropriate level of knowledge and experience for the adventure you plan to have. If you are a novice, please rely on a professional guide or at least a highly knowledgable and experienced partner.
        • As much as possible, study and become familiar with the area you plan on exploring. Gain a thorough understanding of the terrain and its potential hazards.
        • Review the local weather forecast in the area you plan on going and take the appropriate clothing and equipment. During winter-like conditions in mountainous terrain, check the current avalanche report in the area.
        • Be healthy, safe, and smart. Know your limits, don't over-extend them, and don't take unnecessary risks. It's advisable not to go hiking with an existing injury, as it could become unpredictably worse during activity.
        • While in the backcountry with young children, always keep them within sight. If your dog is with you, be courteous and keep it leashed in areas that require it. Doing so will keep you, your dog, other people, and the wildlife more safe.
        • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. There are many objective hazards in the wilderness, and they aren't always obvious. Keep a keen eye out for deteriorating weather, dangerous trail conditions, avalanche risks, and wildlife.
      What questions do you have about Southern California?

      Updated February 21, 2023 at 1:34 PM PST
      This story and headline were updated to reflect additional context provided by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Dept.
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