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Michael J. Ybarra, outdoors journalist for L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, dies in climbing accident near Bridgeport

July 6, 2012

Outdoors journalism suffered a tragic loss this week, when Michael J. Ybarra, a former L.A. Times reporter who had recently written about his outdoors adventures for the Wall Street Journal, was killed in a mountain-climbing fall over the weekend on the edge of Yosemite National Park.

He was 45.

Ybarra had set out alone to cross the craggy Sawtooth Ridge in the Eastern Sierra and summited the 12,280-foot Matterhorn Peak before he fell about 200 feet to his death, according to sister, Suzanne Ybarra, who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times in its Friday editions.

His family reported him missing Sunday, and a rescue crew spotted his body Tuesday in a rugged area difficult to reach on foot, according to Kari Cobb, a park ranger.

His body, according to the L.A. Times report, was found on the side of a mountain, his sister said.

"He died doing what he loved most," she wrote on her Facebook page.

In a statement, the Wall Street Journal called Ybarra "an extraordinary journalist. In the best traditions of his profession he enlightened and engaged readers on a wide array of topics in clear, vivid prose."

On Tuesday, July 3, at 5:50 pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Department dispatch received a call reporting a climber that was overdue from a planned traverse of several peaks in the Sawtooth Range from Matterhorn Peak to Blacksmith Peak.

This range is the boundary between Mono County and Yosemite National Park.

Mono County Sheriff’s Deputies, along with team members from the Mono County Sheriff’s and Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams, responded to the Matterhorn Peak area to search for the overdue hiker, Michael J. Ybarra, 45, of Los Angeles. Search teams found that Ybarra had signed the summit register at Matterhorn Peak, but not at Cleaver Peak, thus intensifying the search efforts between the two peaks.

As the search expanded into a multi-day, multi-agency search, a crew from the National Guard out of Sacramento was requested to aid in the search efforts via a Blackhawk helicopter. The helicopter crew located Ybarra, deceased, on the steep western flank between Matterhorn Peak and Cleaver Peak.

Yosemite National Park and Tuolumne County personnel recovered Ybarra’s body on Wednesday, July 4.

Final cause of death is pending autopsy results but appears to be the result of a solo climber fall.

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