The Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team (SMSR) has been assisting San Dimas Mountain Rescue Team (SDMRT) in the search for Maria Loida Tice. This 60 year old woman is missing after heading out on a hike to Iron Mountain with a Meetup group on Saturday February 13th. She was last seen by other hikers around noon as she was nearing the summit and still hiking towards the top.
Iron Mountain is considered one of the most strenuous hikes in Southern California. The trailhead at Heaton Flats starts at an elevation of 2,000 feet and the trail climbs about 7 miles up to the peak at just over 8,000 feet. The trail is rough and rugged. A few years ago this peak was rarely hiked, but it has recently become more popular. It is part of a worrying trend that the Search and Rescue team is seeing. Social media sites are pushing people to attempt hikes they never would have heard of before, and that are often beyond their capabilities.
Members of the Meetup group Tice was hiking with summited before her and saw her on their descent. She still wanted to continue to the summit. Tice was not reported missing until Wednesday February 17th by concerned coworkers. Members of the SDMRT and SMSR responded immediately and raced to get searchers inserted by helicopter onto the peak before sunset. Searchers then worked through the night on the mountain.
On Thursday February 18th searchers were called in from around Los Angeles county. On the weekend the call for help extended throughout southern California with teams from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino counties responding. Dozens of searchers, dog teams and multiple airships have participated in the search. The terrain is vast and grueling. Search assignments have been starting first thing in the morning and sometimes aren’t completed until the early hours of the next day.
Unfortunately this is not the first search SMSR has been a part of involving a Meetup Group or other hiking group. Below are some tips you can follow to keep yourself and others safe when participating in a hiking group. Following these simple steps could save someone’s life:
Do not depend on someone else in the group to take care of you.
- Carry the 10 essentials
- Carry a map that you have looked at to get an idea of the area you are hiking
- Tell someone who is not on the trip where you are and when to expect you back
Take steps to look out for your fellow hikers. If the group leader isn’t doing it, you can.
- When you meet in the parking lot create a list of everyone’s:
- Cell phone number
- Emergency contact
- License plate
- Have a knowledgeable hiker who knows the route lead
- Put a strong hiker in the back (a sweep). The sweep never passes a group member.
- Group up at trail junctions or any possible points of confusion
- Be sure everyone makes it off of the mountain.
If a group member decides to separate from the group for any reason be sure they get off of the mountain safely. Check for their car in the parking lot when you return (you have their license plate number on your list) or call them later in the evening (you have their number on your list.) If they don’t make it off of the mountain call 911. This simple act could save a life.
SMSR is grateful to the people they have found on social media who were hiking the mountain the day Tice went missing. They have provided valuable information to help in this search.
Anyone with information on Tice’s whereabouts is urged to call the sheriff’s department’s missing persons unit at 323-890-5500.
Since 1951, the all-volunteer Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team has responded to calls for help in the local mountains and beyond. SMSR also provides a range of free wilderness safety education programs. For more information on the Team, to donate, or to arrange a wilderness safety demonstration for your school or group, visit www.smsr.org.