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Helicopter Crews Rescue 4 Hikers In A Week From Treacherous Ice House Canyon

MT. BALDY (CBSLA) — A San Bernardino County sheriff's helicopter crew performed a hoist rescue Tuesday to help a Downey man who lost his footing while hiking the Ice House Canyon Saddle on Mt. Baldy – the fourth such rescue in less than a week.

Authorities say 38-year-old Matthew Jaurequi was hiking with a friend when they encountered a thick patch of ice along the Ice House Canyon Saddle. Jaurequi lost his footing and began to slide, and when his friend tried to grab him, they both slid about 150 feet down the mountain.

The unidentified friend used a cell phone to call 911 for help with Jaurequi, who had sustained a non-life threatening injury and could not hike back on his own, according to sheriff's officials. Because of the remote location, terrain, and icy conditions, sheriff's Helicopter 40King5 responded and determined a hoist rescue would be needed after the crew found the pair at approximately 7,600 feet above sea level.

A medic was lowered down to the hikers, where Jaurequi was placed in a rescue harness and hoisted up to the helicopter. He was later taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, while his friend was able to hike back up to the trail and was determined to continue his journey, according to sheriff's officials.

ice house canyon mt baldy
(credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Aviation)

Tuesday's rescue was the fourth performed in just a week. On Sunday, Jeaffreson Guevara of Los Angeles slipped on ice and slid 300 yards down Ice House Canyon before bushes broke his fall. Patrick Murphy of Los Angeles slid down the mountain about 100 feet and suffered minor cuts on Saturday. Authorities say Murphy had ice gear with him, but was unable to climb back up the trail, so he called for help.

On Thursday, Nicholas Ardoin of Encinitas slid more than 100 feet down an ice chute before catching hold of a tree. His injuries forced him to cling to a tree until help arrived, and he was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center for treatment.

However, the quick succession of rescues may have worked out in Jaurequi's favor. Jaurequi lost his own cell phone in his fall, but he and his friend found another one in the area and used it to call for help, San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Gloria Huerta said. It's not clear who the phone belongs to, but one of the pilots believe it may belong to Ardoin, who was rescued on Thursday.

Ice House Canyon, which is located near Mt. Baldy Village, is rated by hikers as a difficult hike that follows a stream for two miles, but is known to be treacherous in the winter months. It's in federal wilderness area, so a free permit is required for day hiking and overnight trips. Authorities say the steep, rugged, mountainous terrain can become dangerous during the winter, especially after a storm that brought rain and snow to the area.

"In the last week, several hikers using micro spike style traction devices have lost their footing and slid down the mountainside," the San Bernardino County sheriff's Department said in a statement. "Without crampons (a specific type of traction device for ice climbing) and an ice axe, along with the proper training to use this equipment, this type of activity can lead to serious injury or death."

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