Why It Took So Long To Find Julian Sands' Body

The remains of the British actor Julian Sands, who disappeared while hiking in the mountains near Los Angeles in January 2023, have finally been found. Backpackers discovered human remains in the Mount Baldy wilderness on June 24, 2023, that the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department positively identified as being Sands, according to a statement from the agency. The 65-year-old actor — best known for his role in "A Room with a View," the acclaimed 1985 Merchant Ivory film — was hiking alone on January 13 on Mount San Antonio. According to The Guardian, locals call the 10,064-foot high peak Mount Baldy for the lack of trees on its sheer rocky face.

Sands remained missing after eight intensive searches that stretched into more than 500 hours, according to The New York Times. Even in mid-June, when the sheriff's department search resumed, the conditions on the mountain made their work incredibly difficult. "Despite the recent warmer weather, portions of the mountain remain inaccessible due to extreme alpine conditions," the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department said in a June 17 statement before Sands' body had been found. "Multiple areas include steep terrain and ravines, which still have 10-plus feet of ice and snow."

A series of winter storms

It wasn't unusual for Julian Sands to hike alone, as he did on that fateful January day in 2023. He loved the activity, especially in the mountains around Los Angeles, where he lived. "The local mountains offer great adventure, you can go out for an hour, a day, or even several days," he told the website Thrive Global in a 2020 interview. "It's always different and always fantastic."

But the hiking conditions that winter were less than ideal. There had been a series of winter storms making the mountain treacherous, and the Baldy Bowl Trail, which Sands was on, is known to be one of the area's toughest hikes, per The Guardian and The New York Times. Less than a week earlier — Crystal Paula Gonzalez — another avid hiker, slipped on the icy trail on the same hike as Sands and fell several hundred feet to her death. On the evening of January 13, Sands' family contacted the authorities to report that the actor had gone missing. The same weather that had likely played a part in Sands' death also hampered efforts to find him.

Helicopters only

In the first few days after Julian Sands went missing, the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department was able to search for the actor both on foot and by air, but that soon changed. They had to abandon the ground search because of the possibility of avalanches, per a statement by the agency on January 20. During that same period when they were looking for Sands, the department was also involved in 14 other search and rescue operations, according to the agency. Two days later, the agency urged "everyone to stay away from that area. It is extremely dangerous even for the skilled hiker."

Julian Sands, who was married to journalist Evgenia Citkowitz for more than 30 years, has three adult children, per ABC7. "We continue to hold Julian in our hearts with bright memories of him as a wonderful father, husband, explorer, lover of the natural world and the arts, and as an original and collaborative performer," the family said in a statement.