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Sobering Lessons from Mother Nature

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February 01, 2004 02:19PM
Missing Hiker's Body Is Found
The Seal Beach man had set out alone on Mt. San Gorgonio. He was the seventh hiker to die last month in San Bernardino County.
By Janet Wilson
Times Staff Writer

February 1, 2004

The body of a hiker last seen two weeks ago was found Saturday, 400 feet down a slick chute of ice on Mt. San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Rescuers located the body of Eugene Kumm, 25, at 1:50 p.m. in the Vivian Creek drainage, about 8,800 feet up the 11,500-foot snow-capped mountain, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Shannon Kovich.

The Seal Beach man is the seventh hiker to die last month in San Bernardino County.

Rescuers planned to work through the night to move Kumm's body to a trail, where it could be airlifted off the mountain, authorities said.

Kumm, an outdoor enthusiast, apparently died of head and body trauma, Kovich said.

Rescue efforts had been suspended all week but were renewed Saturday.

"We sent up a team today and just got lucky," Kovich said. "We think he was covered with snow before and we've had a lot of snow melt in the last few days."

Kumm's body was not far from the High Creek Camp, where he had planned to stay overnight, authorities said.

"We think he might have gotten disoriented and turned around and tried to follow his own footsteps back down," Kovich said.

The man got a pair of crampons, metal spikes that hikers attach to their boots to provide traction in perilous winter conditions, for Christmas. He went hiking alone Jan. 17 to try out his new equipment.

Kumm had planned to hike to about 9,800 feet, spend the night at the campground and return home the next day, authorities said. When he wasn't home by dark, his girlfriend called authorities, who began their search Jan. 19.

Before starting his hike, Kumm assured the park ranger who issued him a U.S. Forest Service permit that he had the necessary gear to safely complete the hike along the rugged Vivian Creek trail.

Authorities closed the trail two weeks ago because of treacherous conditions.

"It's still icy," Kovich said. "We have a lot of snow melt," which freezes at night.

The deputy said hikers should have the proper equipment and know how to use it, and should never hike alone.
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