Crews are searching for a missing hiker who was last seen on Mount Baldy amid a snowstorm in San Bernardino County.
The missing woman, Lifei Huang, 22, from El Monte, was last seen on Feb. 4, when she headed out on a solo hike at around 2 p.m. that day.
Hours later, however, loved ones had not heard from her. Search and rescue crews began scouring the mountainous region, but couldn’t find her.
Cherry Li, a friend, describes Huang as an adventurous hiker who often likes to journey trailheads alone. Before she headed out on her Sunday hike, Huang texted a group of friends to let them know of her plans that day.
At 1:59 p.m., she sent a video to her boyfriend showing her approaching the trail parking lot on her way into the mountain.
She posted several other videos to her social media page showing a frosty trail and rain coming down as she hummed a song during her hike.
Little did her friends know, these videos would mark the last traces of her whereabouts. Around two hours later, Huang’s communication stopped and weather conditions on Mount Baldy worsened.
Her friends became concerned by Sunday night when she still hadn’t called or returned home yet.
“We didn’t go on the trail but we tried,” Li said tearfully. “We couldn’t do anything because we needed professional help. We got her location early in the hike from a ping from the “Find My Location” [app] and that’s all we have.”
The San Bernardino County search and rescue crews began looking for Huang at around 2:30 a.m. Monday. They found no signs of her during the search.
On Tuesday, crews headed out again and continued searching amid heavy snowfall. Crew members were eventually pulled off from the search due to avalanche risks, authorities said
Volunteers arrived at the trailhead again on Wednesday, but were unable to continue searching due to the dangerous wintry conditions.
“I don’t think she’s been to the trails with snowy weather or rain,” Li said. “We just want her to come back home safe.”
Francisco Carrillo teaches mountaineering classes and often trains for big hikes on Mount Baldy where he said conditions can turn dangerous quickly.
“It can change from being 50 degrees at the parking lot to -10 degrees with 60 mile-per-hour winds at the summit,” Carrillo explained. “It can be a complete whiteout and you’ll lose visibility and get lost.”
Officials are strongly urging the public to stay away from mountain activities during the dangerous storm this week.
“The weather has effectively buried the mountain in snow and it is highly likely hikers will get into trouble,” officials said. “Resources are stretched to their limits and hikers who get lost may have to wait long periods of time before help is available.”
Located in the San Gabriel Mountains, Mount Baldy presents acute dangers to hikers during the wintertime. In 2023, several hikers were found dead, including British actor Julian Sands, 65, after heading out for a hike in the area.
“Many hikers, experienced or novice, underestimate the steep terrain, unpredictable weather, and high winds that present themselves in our mountain areas,” officials warn. “Exposure to the elements and falls contribute to Mt. Baldy’s growing mortality rate and the risk of avalanches prolongs rescue efforts.”
The search for Huang continues. On Thursday, Feb. 8, Li said volunteers located several items that may have belonged to Huang including her beanie and an empty camera bag. Family and friends of the victim also sent out their own drones to aid in the search, but have not yet located Huang.
Anyone who may have seen the missing woman or has additional information is urged to contact the Fontana Sheriff’s Station at 909-356-6767. Anonymous tips can be provided to We-Tip at 1-800-782-7463 or online at wetip.com.