The family of missing film star Julian Sands say he was doing what he loved best when he disappeared – as they released the last known photos of him rock climbing.
As the hunt for the British actor in the California mountains enters its sixth day, poignant photographs he sent to his grandson show him looking relaxed and happy as he climbs well above the clouds.
Mr Sands, who starred in more than 150 films and TV series including A room with a viewsent the photos of himself climbing the Weisshorn mountain in the Swiss Alps to his grandson last September.
A family member told The independent: “This is how he would love to be seen, doing what he loved best – a heroic mountaineer, and thrilled to send a picture of him looking so happy to share with his beloved grandson, Billy.”
And a friend described him as “a Byronic romantic and an adventurer who is drawn to the extremes of nature and enjoys the freedom of the mountains”.
Mr Sands was scaling a section of the Weisshorn at 14,783ft when the colorful images were taken.
The photos, which Julian sent to Billy in September and have been given exclusive access to The independentshow the father of three using climbing equipment including ropes, wearing a helmet and with a rucksack strapped to his back.
In one photograph, he holds a bottle of water and turns to smile at the camera while sitting on a peak.
A keen and experienced hiker, the 65-year-old once described his happiest moment as “near a mountain peak on a gloriously cold morning”.
The Weisshorn, a triangular pyramid-shaped mountain about 15 miles from the Matterhorn, is described by climbing experts as “more serious” than its famous neighbor.
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“The Weisshorn is one of the most difficult peaks at 4,000 meters, and is a long and serious climb no matter the route,” according to Alpine Guides.
His wife, author Evgenia Citkowitz, reported him missing last Friday while he was out in the San Gabriel Mountains in the US, and a close friend said The independent that his family was frantic with worry.
A major search operation was launched for Mr Sands and on Friday crews found a car believed to belong to him, which they towed away.
Henry Sands, Julian’s son and Billy’s father, joined the search in the Californian mountains with an experienced hiker. The West Yorkshire-born actor, who lives in North Hollywood, played journalist Jon Swain in 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 contained by rules or boundaries. He is a Byronic romantic and an adventurer who is drawn to the extremes of nature, enjoying the freedom of mountains that he conquers all over the world.
“He is deeply inspired by the Romantic poets and his performances of their works are spellbinding and come from a passionate love of literature.
“He’s a friend bound by Homeric qualities like loyalty and living life to the fullest.
“He takes no prisoners and yet is as gentle and generous and sensitive as the poets he so admired.
“His total and absolute adoration is always for his wife, the novelist and screenwriter Evgenia Citkowitz, with whom he has two daughters.
“And his son Henry with his first wife, the journalist Sarah Sands, is closely related to him and joined the search for him in the Californian mountains where he went missing.
“His roles are often quirky and original as he moved away from the Merchant Ivory matinee idol roles where he has cemented himself as one of the great British stars.”
At the time of his disappearance, the actor was believed to have been 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 crews will call off the search over the weekend because of avalanche danger, a department spokesman said, with authorities continuing to use drones.
In recent years, several experienced hikers have died due to Mount Baldy’s icy terrain. It is considered one of the most dangerous peaks to climb in the United States.