MENDOCINO Co., 12/5/23 — Climate change has made Mendocino’s already dangerous cliffs even more treacherous, recent studies show. This could have contributed to the death of a man who loved hiking on Mendocino’s south coast. Despite summer-like sunshine, California State Parks officials warn people to use increased caution while hiking beaches and cliffs as waves are bigger, tides more extreme and cliffs more unstable at this time of year.
Job Daniel Nunez-Gamino, a 23-year-old man from Point Arena, who regularly enjoyed hiking along the ocean bluffs, fell to his death on Nov. 30 off a towering cliff near the Point Arena pier, Gregory VanPatten, Public Information Officer for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, said in an email.
Nunez-Gamino was found by rescuers just after dark. VanPatten said lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful due to the traumatic injuries sustained during the fall. The call came in at 5 p.m.
“An eyewitness only saw [Nunez-Gamino] falling down the cliff’s face after hearing falling rocks and had not witnessed the events prior to the fall,” VanPatten said in this email.
VanPatten said the cliff Nunez-Gamino fell from was about 300 feet high.
“Interviews with family developed information that the decedent often walked/hiked along the bluff where he fell, and thus initial scene investigations suggest this was an accidental death. An official determination of cause/manner of death is pending autopsy which most likely will include BA/Toxicology analysis,” VanPatten said in the press release.
People and dogs are warned to stay back from the edge, particularly in winter. Some dangerous places are marked, but most are not.
State Parks has posted warning signs about the danger of cliffs giving way all along the coast. The danger is higher this time of year, when wind, waves and rain accelerate the collapse of cliffs that are much less solid than in other areas of the state and country. For instance, cliffs in the Rocky Mountains or along the Atlantic are composed of mostly bedrock such as granite, making them safer to hike on. Tourists may not realize that rocks and strata in cliffs on the Northern California coast have been crushed repeatedly in a geological process called uplifting and subduction, as a result of being on the edge of continental plates. This creates erosion and slippage, even when the ground looks stable.
Recent studies have found California’s cliffs are falling apart even faster than predicted, with climate change blamed.