An autopsy showed a 49-year-old Venice woman fell to her death on the highest mountain in Los Angeles County, a coroner’s investigator said today. The body of Michelle Yu was recovered Thursday by a helicopter crew from a steep, rugged, ice-covered slope more than 2,100 feet below the summit of Mount Baldy. An autopsy done Friday showed her death was caused by multiple blunt injuries suffered in a fall while hiking, Jerry McKibben, a deputy coroner, told City News Service. Yu had last been heard from a week ago today, when she set out to walk up the steepest trail on the 10,068-foot peak from Manker Flats. She signed a trail register about 8:30 a.m. Dec. 4, and indicated she planned to ascend 4 1/2 miles to Baldy’s summit, then descend the Devil’s Backbone trail to Baldy Notch. From there she planned to ride the ski lift down or walk down the maintenance road to her car, search supervisors said. Yu never returned, and her roommate reported her missing Sunday.
Starting that afternoon, alpine-trained volunteers from several Southern California counties began arriving Mount Baldy Village to join the search for Yu. Friends and family of Yu described her as an experienced mountaineer who trained and climbed on Baldy every weekend. ??Though she normally went out for day hikes and climbs with little or no overnight gear, friends and family said she was a strong woman who could survive for days in the mountains if necessary. The remote spot on the north side of Baldy where her body was spotted Wednesday was considered so treacherous, search supervisors and helicopter crewmen opted to leave her body where they found it until Thursday. The body was located at an elevation of about 7,900 feet, according to Jodi Miller of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.