Iowa Native Training on California Mountain Goes Missing, Search on Fourth Day

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SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, California — A man born and raised in Iowa has been missing for days in the California wilderness after not returning from a hiking trip.

Thirty-three-year-old Eric Desplinter, who was raised in Johnston and graduated from Iowa State, and 31-year-old Gabrielle Wallace were part of a group of four coworkers training on Mt. Baldy for a big hike at the end of April. During the training hike the other two friends turned back and Desplinter and Wallace said they were going to summit. When the two didn’t return down for dinner, their friends called police and the search began.

“We’ve had helicopters going up and down the mountain nighttime and daytime looking for the hikers, covering the trails, covering the sides of the trails. Also, we have multiple search and rescue teams covering the trails, a couple teams have been inserted by helicopter so they can save some time and search different areas,” said San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy Rene Garcia.

According to Desplinter’s mother, Karen Ziebarth, Desplinter was an experienced hiker and a military veteran.

“He’s very strong, he’s very skilled, he’s very knowledgeable and he’s safe. He’s not going to go into an area unless he’s got the right equipment, and we know that they left with the right equipment, we just don’t know what happened,” said Ziebarth.

The search is now in its fourth day and Ziebarth said the family is holding up.

“There’s one area that’s got kind of a big drop. They went and they looked at that from the top and the bottom. That was very comforting to us because it’s a fairly large drop, but they did go to the bottom of the drop and they looked there so they’re not there,” she said.

The weather is better than some areas, but while ideal during the daytime, at higher elevations it can drop to around freezing. Ziebarth says rescue teams have gotten a cell phone ping on the mountain, but the last one was on the day they went missing. She says she remains positive.

“We’re comfortable and confident in the skill of the people that are out here. The skill of people coordinating this effort has been phenomenal. We’re hopeful that today is the day. We just have a good feeling about today, so we’re hoping,” said Ziebarth.

During search efforts, rescue teams found a beanie, instructions for crampons and a trekking pole, although it’s unclear if they belong to the pair of missing hikers.


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