Hike to nowhere

Man gets lost in Santa Monicas and takes four days to reach safety


HELP ON THE WAY—Above, paramedics prepare to take Santos to the hospital. Below, rescuers discuss plans to enter the rugged mountain terrain where the hiker became lost. Photos courtesy of Malibu SAR

HELP ON THE WAY—Above, paramedics prepare to take Santos to the hospital. Below, rescuers discuss plans to enter the rugged mountain terrain where the hiker became lost. Photos courtesy of Malibu SAR

The outcome could have been much worse for a 30-year-old hiker who became lost and injured in the Santa Monica Mountains and wandered for four days before reaching safety.

Marcelo Santos of Hawthorne went hiking with friends in Corral Canyon on Sat., March 31.

Dep. Dave Katz, operations leader of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Search and Rescue Team, said Santos lost some of his belongings during the hike and returned to the area Sunday to retrieve them.

 

 

But as the hours ticked away and day turned into night, he realized he wouldn’t be able to complete his recovery mission and decided to bed down. At one point during the night he fell off a steep 20-foot cliff and injured a knee.

His backpack and some other items he had come back to retrieve remained at the top of the cliff—including his cellphone.

“He started scrambling as best he could with his injury” Katz said.

Climbing back up the sheer cliff to get his phone was out of the question.

“Pain from the knee panicked him, and he figured, ‘I gotta get out of here,’” Katz said.

The man’s mother called officials Mon., April 2 to report her son was missing. Some 100 rescue personnel, three helicopters and a team of dogs mounted a search-and-rescue effort in the rugged mountain terrain.

Rescuers pinged the man’s cellphone and were able to locate it at the top of the cliff on the first night of their search, but by the time they found the phone and some of the man’s other gear on Tuesday morning the lost hiker had already departed.

Santos told authorities he could hear helicopters overhead but he couldn’t be seen because of trees and thick brush.

When hikers become lost, as a general rule, they should stay put and not wander away, Katz said.

Just as crews began to lose hope, Santos emerged, injured and dehydrated, on Wed., April 4—four days after his one-day hike began—at the Salvation Army camp near Malibu Canyon Road south of Calabasas.

“Trails didn’t even exist where he was. (He) bushwhacked all the way,” the search-and-rescue team said in a social media post.

“Positive mental attitude and pure gumption for the win,” posted Holly Butler on Facebook.

Santos underwent surgery for his injuries and is making a recovery.