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California, Mt. San Jacinto

California, Mt. San Jacinto—On February 27, a church group camping at Camp Tahquitz went for a short hike on the Devils Slide Trail. When the group re-assembled at the camp for lunch, it was noticed that Paul E. Walker (68) was missing. Walker had done much hiking in the Whitney region of the Sierra Nevada and was considered “experienced” by the group; he had a reputation for preferring to travel alone. When he had not returned at dusk, the others notified the Sherriff’s Office; because of the darkness, low-hanging clouds, and treacherous terrain, a search was not begun until the next morning. The temperature dropped below freezing during the night. Next morning, by following tracks in the snow, the body was found by Deputy Sheriff Hollis and one member of the hiking group after a half-hour search. Their initial reconstruction of the accident was that Walker had left the trail and, while crossing the hillside, had slipped on rocks and icy snow. After falling a few feet his head struck a rock; he probably died instantly. The scene of the fall was screened from the trail by heavy brush. Later an autopsy suggested natural causes. The coroner’s report (Riverside County) listed the cause of death as “coronary artery insufficiency, due to arteriosclerosis.” This probably either caused the fall or occurred early in the fall.

Source: David Harrah.

Analysis: This is another example of the dangers of solo climbing. In addition, the considerable delay in observing that Walker was missing indicates that good leadership was not demonstrated by this party.