According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD), a male hiker was with three other hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near Apple Canyon Road and Bonita Vista Road in Mountain Center on Friday, when he lost traction and fell into a gorge.
The other hikers were unable to access him due to the topography, and set off their emergency beacons at 9:38 a.m. so emergency personnel could locate them.
RCSD, Cal Fire, the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) responded.
CHP used its helicopter to assist in the rescue. According to Cal Fire, poor weather conditions made it difficult for CHP to access the hikers, having to land and re-evaluate.
After re-evaluation, CHP took flight and transported RMRU as close as possible, while avoiding cloud cover, so RMRU could continue on foot to reach the patient.
Unfortunately, the male hiker succumbed to his injuries before rescuers could reach him.
The victim’s identity was not released as of press time. The investigation is ongoing and being overseen by RCSD.
According to Cal Fire, on Saturday, March 28 at 1:19 p.m., two more hikers in the same area of the PCT became stuck due to snow and ice and called for help.
Cal Fire’s helicopter was able to extract the hikers and transported them to awaiting ambulances to be evaluated for injuries as a precaution. Both were uninjured.
The Trail Hunter (https://www.thetrailhunter.com/) interviewed Jon “San Jac Jon” King Saturday about the current PCT conditions, posting the interview on YouTube.
King is very knowledgeable about local trails. According to his website, he volunteers as a wilderness ranger for Mt. San Jacinto State Park and also volunteers for the Pacific Crest Trail Association and U.S. Forest Service.
King spoke about why the PCT is so dangerous right now.
“The current situation, we’ve had a pretty weird year weather-wise,” said King in the interview. “In the last week or so, it’s been icy and then rained on, and that led to a very serious fall. San Jacinto has the highest number of fatalities than anywhere else on the PCT partly because the weather has got more erratic.”
While the PCT has advised hikers to cancel their hikes due to COVID-19, the U.S. Forest Service is in charge of closing that portion of the trail if they see fit.
“Trails are open on the [National] Forest, including the PCT, at this time,” wrote Zach Behrens, public affairs officer for San Bernardino National Forest-USFS, in an email. “We recommend, however, that potential visitors follow state and local guidelines regarding public and personal safety measures.”