Hikers who found the remains of Julian Sands recall a ‘surreal’ experience

The group of hikers who found actor Julian Sands’ body months after he disappeared in the mountains of Southern California have spoken out for the first time about the “surreal” experience.

Sands, 65, was reported missing by his wife on January 13 after the ‘The Killing Fields’ star never returned from a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles. It was last seen in the Mount Baldy area, which is notoriously treacherous for hikers.

His body was found by local hikers on June 24 after months of unsuccessful search efforts.

The leader of the hiking group, who, like all hikers in the area, knew full well that Sands had disappeared up the mountain, had an eerie fear in the back of her mind: “I hope we don’t find a body today, ” she told the Los Angeles Times.

Three hours later, the group said they weren’t surprised to spot a single boot. And then another boot, a walking stick, and finally human bones.

Nearby, they found a pile of dark winter clothes and a wallet. There was a driver’s license in the wallet, and Sands’s familiar face was looking at her. The name on the ID confirmed her suspicions.

“It was surreal,” Wanderer Bill Dwyer told the outlet.

Julian Sands
Sands was found by local hikers on June 24, five months after he went missing on Mount Baldy.

Hikers noticed how his remains blended into the landscape, making him difficult to find.

The group’s organizer told the outlet that the hike, while difficult, is beautiful: “Filled with wildflowers and waterfalls, it’s perfect for people like me who don’t like hiking.”

Three and a half hours later they reached the shallow canyon at about 8,400 feet. The organizer said she ran right past the first boot spotted by another hiker behind her.

They said the bones had been scattered – probably by wild animals. But the remains of Sands may have been thrown into the area by avalanches or melting snow.

General views of the rocky, snow covered area in the Angeles National Forest where British actor Julian Sands went missing after a hike.
Sands was ill-equipped for the winter weather he likely faced on the mountain, said the hikers who found his body.
no byline@backgrid.com / BACKGRID

What worried hikers the most was the lack of equipment found near the remains necessary for such a dangerous winter hike.

They did not find a backpack that could have contained the necessary survival gear and found that he was “dressed like a ninja” and wore dark clothing, making it difficult for rescuers to spot him.

Hikers also noted that he wore microspikes — small metal studs that are good for hiking snowy trails but not for icy mountain trails where crampons, heavy spikes that attach to hiking boots, are needed, according to the LA Times.

“I was a little shocked when I saw the microtips,” Dwyer said. “They were simply the wrong tools for the task at hand.”

Julian Sands
Sands’ cause of death remains unclear.
Getty Images

They also found no sign of a helmet or an ice ax. They found Sands’ cellphone on a rock under a tree, but most of the mountain has no signal.

After finding the bones, Dwyer used his Garmin InReach – a $400 pocket-sized satellite communication device – to send an SOS to authorities with the exact location, he told The Times. The emergency services arrived within eight minutes, he said.

Officials confirmed the remains were those of Sands three days later, five months after his disappearance.

According to the LA Times, there have been more than 100 rescues and at least 10 fatalities on Mt. Baldy since 2020.

Search for Sheriff Julian Sands in San Bernardino County
Extensive efforts by San Bernardino County authorities failed for months to locate Sands.
San Bernardino County Sheriff

Julian Sands
Sands is known for his work in films such as Arachnophobia, A Room with a View, Warlock, and Leaving Las Vegas.
Arthur Mola/Invision/AP

How and when exactly Sands died is not yet clear. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said last month that his death was “undetermined due to the condition of the body and this is normal in handling cases of this nature.”

The search for the English actor was hampered by the weather. After he was reported missing, the county sheriff’s office conducted eight land and air searches that totaled more than 500 hours and cost over $100,000, according to the LA Times.

In the days following Sands’ disappearance, violent storms repeatedly buried the area in piles of snow.

Officials concluded he was likely in Goode Canyon — where he was eventually found — after his cellphone last rang from a ridge on the Baldy Bowl Trail. Searching the canyon on foot in winter would have been risky for rescuers given the snow, ice and steep terrain, officials said.

Another major search was launched in June, but Sands was still not found, despite the use of high-tech helicopter-borne equipment.


JACLYN DIAZ is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. JACLYN DIAZ joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing diza@ustimetoday.com.

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