A group of hikers who went missing overnight north of Pasadena were found on a steep ledge by a rescue helicopter Monday morning, according to authorities.
Helicopters had launched early Monday to join the search for at least 15 hikers who were reported missing overnight in Eaton Canyon, a rugged area north of Pasadena where five deaths have occurred since 2011.
The group was airlifted from the mountain soon after being found, returning to relieved friends and family. They described a challenging night, but one in which no one was seriously hurt.
U.S. & World
"We're fine, nothing happened to us, thank God," hiker Nancy Picado said after being rescued. "God was always with us, so we're good."
The group of young adults and teens were canyoneering as part of a church group of 30 people. The group started hiking at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, expected to return by 6 p.m. and reported missing at 9:30 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"It was heartbreaking to not know what had happened to them, but something that we all have is ...faith in God and that he has the power to do great things," said Annajancy Armentia, a sister of one of the hikers.
The group was located by a sheriff's helicopter at around 9 a.m. It began hoisting the hikers up from the steep mountainside less than an hour later to be checked by medics at a nearby location, deputies said. They were then reunited with their family.
One appeared to be hobbling after disembarking the rescue helicopter. She later had a cast on her ankle.
Eaton Canyon is a popular hiking spot in the Angeles National Forest at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena. A treacherous stretch of Eaton Canyon, the Upper Falls, closed earlier in 2014 after numerous rescues and injuries.
Since 2011, five people have died in the area. In March 2013, a 17-year-old girl suffered a fatal head injury in a fall from a cliff.
The park is the subject of a Los Angeles County Parks safety video that provides aerial views of the waterfall and ridge.
The group was made up of semi-experienced hikers who have gone out as a group on three-mile treks before.
The hikers ranged from 14 to 36 years of age.
"They are well trained, they have been doing this for a couple of years," Armentia said. "They came with food, they came with water, they came with harnesses and everything."
The group decided not to move after night fell, builing a fire to keep warm.
"We were wet and we were tired," Picado said.
The group was not hiking through a restricted part of the canyon, but were probably three miles from the bottom, with three or four waterfalls to cross along the route, according to James Moussally, a member of the Altadena Rescue Team.
He said the area has rock that often crumbles, making it hard or impossible to follow established paths to the top of the waterfalls.
"Maybe they weren't quite prepared for it to take as long as it did because of the amount of people" in their group, Moussally said.
Air units were deployed as low clouds and fog begin to break up Monday over the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.
A sheriff's helicopter airlifted a hiker during its search for the missing hikers, but he was not part of that group, according to a sheriff's deputy on the scene.