Bob and WB. I'm reposting the letter from page 2 of this lengthy thread, from the father of the deceased, Michael Powell. There is another letter going around as well to the Forest Supervisor. So Inyo is well informed at this point and some official response will probably be forthcoming to improve the trail navigation in this area. In addition, the Search and Rescue team should also be following up with Inyo NF regarding their impromptu trail work at this spot (which is NOT a violation of the Wilderness Act).
If you're truly concerned about people moving small rocks along the trail, perhaps you two could use your experience and contacts to organize a properly sanctioned trail improvement. Its probably going to happen either way, but your support would be welcome.
I have written the following letter to the managers of the Inyo National Forest.
I invite others, especially those who have lost the trail above Mirror Lake, to join me in this effort.
November 14, 2016
Ed Armenta, Forest Supervisor (email@example.com)
Paul Fuselier, Acting District Ranger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Inyo National Forest
Dear Mr. Armenta and Mr. Fuselier,
As you already know, my son Michael Powell died in a tragic hiking accident on October 18, 2016.
This accident is disturbingly similar to those of John Likely in June of 2014 and Shyam Das in August of 2012. I've been reading the accounts of experienced Mt. Whitney hikers on the thread discussing Mike's accident at http://www.whitneyzone.com/…/Fallen_Hiker_on_Monday_10-17-1…
From what I've been able to surmise from talking with Mike's hiking companion and reading about that location on the trail, I'm estimating that they lost the trail while descending in the dark (in the area of 36.567484 N; 118267251 W) and, while looking to find the trail, wandered out to the dangerous cliff area above Mirror Lake.
As discussed on the Whitney Zone website, this part of the trail is difficult to navigate on descents, especially in the dark, and has fooled even experienced hikers.
I am writing to ask you to take a look at this part of the trail with an eye toward improving the trail marking of the switchbacks in this area; there needs to be better visual cues (cairns, small signs) to guide hikers to keep them on the trail and away from the cliffs.
I appreciate your attention to this request and I ask to be kept informed of actions taken by the National Forest Service in this matter.
James C. Powell, Jr.