MOUNT BALDY VILLAGE, Calif. (AP) — Crews were searching a mountainous area in Southern California on Tuesday for two hikers who’ve been missing for three days in snowy and rugged terrain. Two dozen search and rescue members were looking for 33-year-old Eric Desplinter of Chino Hills and 31-year-old Gabrielle Wallace of Rancho Cucamonga. They were believed headed toward the 8,860-foot (2,700-meter) Cucamonga Peak just northeast of Los Angeles and were expected to return by Saturday night.
Searchers include a vertical-ice team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said it was using a helicopter to assist. Video taken by a Los Angeles County team on the second day of the search showed just how vast and rugged the search area is. San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials said 16 of the searchers were airlifted to the top of Cucamonga Peak on Tuesday to avoid covering ground that’s already been searched.
Crews have found a beanie, instructions on how to use crampons for ice-hiking, and a trekking pole, though it’s unclear if they belong to Desplinter or Wallace, the sheriff’s department said.
Wallace’s mother, Brenda Wallace, was waiting at the foot of the mountain for her daughter’s safe return and told KTTV-TV that she was hoping for the best. “I thought maybe she tripped and broke or ankle or something, (and) maybe it slowed them down to a crawl and he’s trying to help get her down,” she said. “I know he wouldn’t leave her, and I know she wouldn’t leave him.”
She said Desplinter was an experienced hiker and that her daughter had just bought new gear for a group hike with him and friends. But Gabrielle Wallace and Desplinter, who is her boss, got separated from the group and haven’t been seen since.
Cucamonga Peak is part of the San Gabriel Mountains and near the range’s tallest peak, Mount Baldy, where a number of hikers have fallen to their deaths in icy conditions in recent years. Nearby on Mount Wilson, part of the same range, a trail-runner fell to his death after slipping on a patch of ice in February.