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Fall Killed Veteran Hiker Who Climbed California Peak Over 700 Times

The Los Angeles County coroner's office says the death of a veteran hiker on Southern California's towering Mount Baldy was due to a fall.

LA County Coroner's Lt. David Smith tells the Los Angeles Times that 78-year-old Seuk Doo "Sam" Kim suffered blunt trauma in a fall down a trail.

Sam Kim Courtesy of San Bernardino Sheriff's Department

Kim was well known for having made more than 700 ascents of the 10,064-foot mountain, the highest point in Los Angeles County. Last year, he summited the mountain 240 times.

He was reported missing on April 9 after he did not return from his latest solo trek. His disappearance prompted a search by 18 search-and-rescue teams, and a helicopter crew spotted his body two days later on the northwest side of the peak at an elevation of 8,800 feet.

He would strap on a backpack and set out, usually alone, for the familiar 4,000-foot climb up well-maintained trails offering spectacular views of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.

He had a reputation on Mount Baldy for warmly greeting fellow hikers, handing out snacks and posing for photos.

Kim moved from South Korea to Southern California in 1981 and often climbed the mountain daily.

"He was like an ambassador, always out there, talking to folks. We love to hear stories like that," a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson has said. "The Forest Service extends condolences to his family."

But the spokesperson warned that hiking Baldy is inherently risky, especially this year after an especially cold winter left ice and snow on many trails.

Speaking to a Los Angeles Times reporter while ascending in December, Kim said: "I'm feeling God's embrace. This is better than church."

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