Second Hiker Dies in Santa Monica Mountains in Two Months

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Recent deaths and other heat-related injuries of hikers in the Santa Monica Mountains have highlighted the need for proper awareness and preparation. It's important to know the basics and have a plan in case of emergencies.

Two hikers have died and multiple others have suffered heat-related injuries in the Santa Monica Mountains over the past two months, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

One woman died at Circle X Ranch in early August, while another succumbed to heat stroke in the Malibu Hills earlier this month. Emergency personnel were able to respond quickly to both victims, but were unsuccessful in reviving them. In both cases, the victims ran out of water and died of heat stroke, according to the Malibu Search and Rescue Team. Local temperatures on both days were in the mid-upper 80s.

The Santa Monica Mountains are home to one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems in the world, a Mediterranean-type environment characterized by warm dry summers and wet winters. This geologically active region is marked by alternating canyons and peaks, which characterize many of the trails in the area. The Woolsey Fire of last year burnt vast swaths of the Santa Monica Mountains, with many areas robbed completely of their tree cover and shade.

Many hikers may not realize how long or difficult a particular trail is until it’s too late. On the day of the fatality earlier this month, eight different hikers from that same group had to be saved from four separate locations around the Zuma Canyon area, according to Search and Rescue. Many were found on portions of the trail that had been closed for environmental restoration. Officials stress that hikers should adhere to posted signs and not wander off the trail.

As the National Park Service points out on their website, hikers are strongly advised to plan ahead and follow basic safety precautions. This includes bringing the “10 Essentials” on all hikes: extra water, food, sun protection, flashlight, map and compass, multipurpose tool, warm clothes, waterproof matches, emergency blanket, and first-aid kit. Many outdoor retailers sell readymade kits, as well as items to create personal emergency kits.

Search and Rescue highly recommend hiking in the early morning or late afternoon, in order to stay out of the direct sun. Cell phone service is limited or nonexistent in many areas of the Santa Monica mountains, including major roads and trails. Above all, individuals are encouraged to recognize and adhere to their own personal limitations.

If someone shows signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke while out hiking, immediately seek shade, attempt to cool the individual down, and seek immediate medical help. Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include dizziness, headaches, nausea, and in serious cases hallucinations and unconsciousness.