The family of missing movie star Julian Sands says he was doing what he loved most when he disappeared – when they released the last known footage of him mountain climbing.
As the hunt for the British actor in the California mountains enters its sixth day, poignant photos he sent to his grandson show him looking relaxed and happy as he climbs far above the clouds.
Mr Sands, who starred in more than 150 films and television series, including A room with a viewsent the photos of himself climbing Mount Weisshorn in the Swiss Alps last September.
A family member told The independent: “This is how he would like to be seen doing what he loved best – a heroic rock climber, and excited to send a photo of him looking so happy to share with his beloved grandson, Billy .”
And a friend described him as “a Byronesque romantic and an adventurer drawn to the extremes of nature, enjoying the freedom of the mountains”.
Mr. Sands was climbing part of the 4,500-foot Weisshorn when the colorful photos were taken.
The images, which Julian sent to Billy in September and were given exclusively to him The independentshows the father of three using climbing equipment including ropes, wearing a helmet and carrying a backpack securely strapped to his back.
In one photo, he is holding a bottle of water and turning to smile at the camera while perched on a peak.
An avid and experienced hiker, the 65-year-old once described his happiest moment as “close to a mountaintop on a gloriously cold morning”.
The Weisshorn, a three-ridged pyramidal mountain about 15 miles from the Matterhorn, has been described by climbing experts as “more serious” than its famous neighbor.
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“One of the most difficult 4,000-meter peaks, the Weisshorn is a long and serious climb on any route,” according to Alpine Guides.
His wife, the writer Evgenia Citkowitz, reported him missing last Friday while he was in America’s San Gabriel mountains, and a close friend told The independent that his family was mad with worry.
A massive search was launched for Mr Sands, and on Friday crews found a car believed to be his, which they towed away.
Henry Sands, Julian’s son and Billy’s father, went on a quest in the California mountains with an experienced hiker. The West Yorkshire-born actor, who lives in north Hollywood, played journalist Jon Swain The killing fieldsand is also known for starring in the Merchant Ivory romance A room with a view.
A friend told The independent: “Julian is wild and never limited by rules or boundaries. He is a Byronesque romantic and an adventurer who is drawn to the extremes of nature and enjoys the freedom of mountains he conquers around the world.
“He is deeply inspired by the romantic poets and his performances of their work are enchanting and born out of a passionate love of literature.
“He is a friend bound by Homeric qualities of loyalty and living life to the fullest.
“He takes no prisoners and yet is as gentle, generous and sensitive as the poets he so admired.
“His total and absolute adoration always goes to his wife, the novelist and screenwriter Evgenia Citkowitz with whom he has two daughters.
“And his son Henry by his first wife, the journalist Sarah Sands, is closely associated with him and joined the search for him in the California mountains where he went missing.
“His roles are often quirky and original as he moved away from the Merchant Ivory matinee idol roles in which he has cemented himself as one of Britain’s great stars.”
When he disappeared, the actor was thought to be somewhere on the popular Baldy Bowl Trail, which climbs 3,900 feet over 4.5 miles to the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Search and rescue teams have been forced to halt the search over the weekend due to avalanche threats, a spokesperson for the department said, while authorities continue to use drones.
In recent years, several veteran hikers have died as a result of Mount Baldy’s icy terrain. It is considered one of the most dangerous peaks to climb in the US.