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#53052 - 05/09/18 09:02 AM Fatal: Hiker fell on Whitney 2018-05-05
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Original post:
Quote:
A friend of mine lost his life on Mt Whitney this past weekend. I have seen nothing anywhere about it. Is there some place I can go to find any information. Thank you.


Moderator's edit, May 17: Sequoia National Park reported the death in a news release (see below). The hiker was Eric Juliani, from Campbell, CA and Haddonfield, NJ. His body was recovered by helicopter on May 6, 2018.
This is a long thread, click here to view all posts.


Rest in Peace, Eric.  The entire hiking community mourns.



Summary:
Eric went up the main trail with friends and camped overnight just below Trail Camp. Next day he continued on and his friends turned around. He reached the summit, but then, apparently disoriented, he mistakenly attempted to descend the Mountaineer's Route "Walk Off" Traverse (down the north side of the mountain) instead of the Main Trail heading down the south side of the mountain. Near the Notch at the base of the Final 400, he slipped or tripped and was unable to arrest his fall, continuing down 2000 feet to his death. Other hikers descending the same route found his two ice axes where the fall began, and observed the tracks left by his slide in the ice and snow.

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#53053 - 05/09/18 11:26 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Oh my, SO Sorry!!! We'll try to find links. Usually Inyo County Sheriff will post a news release when these things occur, or, depending on whether the death occurred on the east or west side of the crest, it could be reported by Sequoia National Park--they're on the west side.

Edit: More info: Inyo County Sheriff dispatch did not have any information. Sequoia N.P. information officer is looking for any information. I'll report here if I get anything more.


Edited by Steve C (05/09/18 12:20 PM)

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#53055 - 05/09/18 12:21 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Thank you so much!

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#53056 - 05/09/18 12:26 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
The Sequoia N.P. information officer called me back. She confirmed there was a death on the Mountaineers Route of Mt Whitney. The hiker fell on Saturday, May 5, 2018, and was recovered the following day by helicopter. Tulare County, in Visalia, CA, is working to identify the body. Depending on family wishes, the climber's name may or may not be released.

The SeKi information officer is hoping to publish more information, along with safety warnings for future climbers.

Sending our sincerest condolences to the family. May he rest in peace.

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#53057 - 05/09/18 12:29 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Yes, that is the one. Thank you. His family has been notified now.
From NJ, then lived in NH where I am...moved to CA last July :-(
He was hiking with 2 friends, they turned back...he continued...they seem to believe he made the summit, then fell on the way down. The Saturday and Sunday information matches what I heard as well, from his family. Devastating news to all who knew him.

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#53058 - 05/09/18 12:35 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Here are pictures of the section of the Mountaineers Route that has snow and ice this time of the year. With the current freeze/thaw cycles, it can be soft and easy to cross, or depending on temperatures, can be icy and treacherous. A fall from here would require recovery by the Sequoia N.P. SAR people, since it is on the west side of the Sierra crest, and within Sequoia National Park.

Picture link.


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#53059 - 05/09/18 12:38 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: tntorr
Yes, that is the one. Thank you. His family has been notified now.
From NJ, then lived in NH where I am...moved to CA last July :-(
He was hiking with 2 friends, they turned back...he continued...they seem to believe he made the summit, then fell on the way down. The Saturday and Sunday information matches what I heard as well, from his family. Devastating news to all who knew him.


Oh, that's really sad. Do you know if the friends had to hike out and report him missing, or if anyone actually witnessed the accident?

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#53060 - 05/09/18 01:20 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Ive heard he was found/seen by other hikers, but I donít know at what point that happened.
I feel like he may have been a bit unprepared for what he was getting into, but was planning on moving back to NH soon, so he really wanted to do this. Tragic lesson learned.

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#53061 - 05/09/18 01:22 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Thatís scary. Family was told he fell 2000í...I can see why/how based on this picture. So scary and sad...he was the most kind-hearted person I know.

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#53062 - 05/09/18 01:23 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
His friends left him (or he left them when he decided to continue) and he was supposed to meet them back at the hotel. I donít know if they knew he was missing first, or if he was found first.

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#53064 - 05/09/18 02:52 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Losing a friend has got be really tough. So sorry.

Falling 2000' is what would occur in the place those pictures are taken.

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#53065 - 05/09/18 04:05 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
I would like to make a contribution in his name to the rescue group. Would that be possible/accepted?

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#53067 - 05/09/18 07:20 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Cancel that. I found the donation link for this site. All set. Thank you so much for all your help and information. ❤️

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#53070 - 05/09/18 10:31 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
tntorr, thank you!!

Some of the text of this thread was posted on the Mt Whitney group on Facebook. It's private, so you have to join Facebook, and then request to join the group to read what people write.

There are a number of condolences there that you or family might like to read. Here's a link to the post.

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#53072 - 05/10/18 02:08 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
MarkDP Offline


Registered: 05/10/18
Posts: 1
Loc: California, USA
I did not realize the Mounaineers route had such a steep section on the west side of the crest. Thanks for showing this view.

Sorry to hear about the hiker who fell. Condolences to his family.


Edited by MarkDP (05/10/18 02:08 AM)

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#53073 - 05/10/18 04:30 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
Thank you.

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#53078 - 05/10/18 09:08 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
tntorr, Willie H posted this on the facebook Mt Whitney group, with the words:

"May 5th, 2018 RIP"


(click to enlarge)

The picture is a fitting tribute to your friend.

The Mountaineers Route is the strip of snow ascending to the notch, to the right of the peak. In the picture, it doesn't look nearly as steep or as far as it really is. The location of the accident is out of view behind the notch.

Willie H posted this:
"Wow! Terrible! We climbed the East Buttress (got a much later start), so we were totally unaware of the tragic death on the mountaineering route. Deepest condolences to family and friends"

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#53079 - 05/10/18 09:30 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Ejolaes10 Offline


Registered: 05/10/18
Posts: 2
Loc: California
Hello. I actually came across the 2 gentlemen on May 5 while i was setting up camp about 1/2 mile before Iceberg Lake. One of them mentioned to me about an incident that just happened regarding their friend up at MR on the way to summit Whitney. They mentioned something about leaving ice axes and if i was going up and see them, if i can grab it for them and bring it down.

At that time the conversation wasn't crystal clear so i was not for sure of the reality of the event. The following morning i successfully summited Whitney. Myself and a group of hikers that i met at the summit took the John Muir traverse trail back down. I spotted both ice axes on the trail and grabbed the closest to the trail that was reachable, the other was too far down. This part was so sketchy and really no where to go but straight down if a fall would've happened.

I hiked down with the axe, which was i assumed was rented with REI lot numbers printed all over it. I was planning to turn it in at the portal but dropped it nearing the base of the MR route and wasn't able to recover it but hoping someone else will recover it. I only found out the severity of the accident on my way home when a friend message me about a tragic accident happening the day i climbed Whitney and reconfirmed when he saw this blog.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of the gentleman who lost his life that day. And i really feel bad that i couldn't hang on long enough to return what would be the last thing he was holding onto before losing his life. I have a photo of the exact location where i spotted the axes. If any of his friends and family would like to have it, i would gladly share it. May his soul rest in peace...

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#53084 - 05/10/18 06:41 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Ejolaes10]
tntorr Offline


Registered: 05/09/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Rochester, NH
It means a lot that someone held his axe..really. Iím glad your hike was safe as well...

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#53097 - 05/12/18 12:12 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
tdschmel Offline


Registered: 05/12/18
Posts: 1
Loc: California (CA)
So sorry to hear that man. We had a group of 6 attempt to summit on May 5th but only me and 2 others made it up to the summit past the notch. We came back down via the traverse. There was a group of 3 that came up behind us that day. Then 2 more we saw starting up from Iceberg at around 11am. Were you in one of these groups? What day did you attempt to summit?

- Taylor

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#53101 - 05/12/18 02:35 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Ejolaes10 Offline


Registered: 05/10/18
Posts: 2
Loc: California
It guilts me that I didn't held on to it long enough til Portal.

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#53102 - 05/12/18 02:50 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tdschmel]
KL0688 Offline


Registered: 05/11/18
Posts: 3
Loc: Ca USA
Hi Taylor,

I've been quietly monitoring this board for activity and have private messaged some people involved here.

My family and I were becoming close friends with the hiker that lost his life. We were neighbors that would spend a couple days of the week together watching TV or gathering for dinner.

He was with a male and female friends that hiked him to the base on May 5th. He proceeded up alone because the other 2 knew that it was beyond their skillset, they proceeded back down and waited for him at the portal.

I believe he was wearing a brown camouflage winter jacket, obviously two blue ice axes in hand.

I wanted to remain quiet but decided recently that time will eventually pass to where anybody that saw him at the top or may have spoke with him up there will forget the details.

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#53104 - 05/12/18 11:02 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: KL0688]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
> I wanted to remain quiet but decided recently that time will eventually pass to where anybody that saw him at the top or may have spoke with him up there will forget the details.

KL0688, I am really sorry you lost a friend. I think you are right to reach out to contact anyone who might have crossed paths with him. Unfortunately, private-messages are often missed on this forum. I can directly email people if you contact me.

In addition, it would be a service to the hiking community if anyone who has more information could share, so that hikers could learn from the accident. I, for one, would like to see the picture that Ejolaes10 took of the location, to get a better idea of what happened.

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#53106 - 05/13/18 09:03 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
KL0688 Offline


Registered: 05/11/18
Posts: 3
Loc: Ca USA
Thank you Steve, I will reach out if the need arises.

In regards to Ejolaes photo. He has shared it with me privately and it is the same area as you have posted before, here is a direct link to your previous photo ( https://photos.smugmug.com/Other/Whitney/i-3kfFGpV/0/O/WhitWalkoff.jpg)

I don't want to post Ejolaes' photo without his permission, and partly because I believe you can see the hiker's ice axes in the picture. It feels like it may be morbid for those people that are close with the hiker. Tame to the general population, but kind of despairing to family and friends. For that reason, I will not be posting it.

Steve, I would be willing to share the photo with you privately and perhaps you can use your vast library to post your own of the same location.


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#53108 - 05/13/18 12:28 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: KL0688]
JakeP Offline


Registered: 05/13/18
Posts: 2
Loc: Arizona
It seems weird to me that I can't find info about this accident anywhere outside of this forum.

I'm going to have a go at the MR on the next week and I'd like to learn more in a respectful and sensitive way from an official source.

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#53109 - 05/13/18 12:48 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: JakeP]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: JakeP
It seems weird to me that I can't find info about this accident anywhere outside of this forum.

I'm going to have a go at the MR on the next week and I'd like to learn more in a respectful and sensitive way from an official source.

JakeP, this one is sure being kept quiet. It wouldn't have shown up here without tntorr's post asking about it -- and nobody except the rescuing people and the family would have ever known. The SeKi public information person had been out on vacation, returned on Wednesday when I called, and she had to look into it then. She called me back, and confirmed the recovery. She was considering making a public release, but wanted to issue some safety advice along with it. I don't think that ever occurred. You might try calling (559-565-3131 or 565-3341), and ask if there is any more information available. (If you get anything, please report here.)

I have received news releases in the past that don't appear on the SEKI News Releases website.

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#53110 - 05/13/18 12:54 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: KL0688]
Granny Smith Offline


Registered: 06/13/17
Posts: 13
Loc: California
First off, this is tragic news, and my heart goes out to the victims family and friends.

Second, I was in a group of four that attempted to summit via the mountaineers route on Friday morning, May 4th. We opted to turn around while on our final ascent for a variety of reasons, and started making our way back down to the portal around 11am. We passed one single climber at Iceberg Lake, who was going to summit via the East Buttress on the 5th. Shortly after that, we came across a group of six climbers near upper Boy Scout lake. Finally, we passed two groups of three climbers near the Ebersbacher ledges. We shared trail reports with everyone, what we had seen or heard from folks we met who were exiting the mountain on the 3rd (day we arrived).

I am not sure if your friend was in these groups, but it hits home when you know we are all in it together and want to see everyone have a safe experience on this mountain.

Best wishes during these tough times.

- Nick

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#53114 - 05/13/18 09:22 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
erich Offline


Registered: 05/13/18
Posts: 1
Loc: california
I summited the mountaineers route sat, you can see below the notch where he slipped and fell, his skid marks in the snow go down a few hundred meters until they hit rocks. I have video of that shows this

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#53116 - 05/14/18 06:39 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: erich]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
My friend and I summitted via the MMWT a little after noon on May 5. (See my trail conditions report here: http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/4904/1)

We were there for maybe a few minutes before two climbers came over from the MR. (The other 8-10 people had all come up the main trail.) I distinctly remember discussing the conditions with them, having previously done a guided trip up the MR in alpine conditions with ropes, etc. When we descended the final 400, it was literally like going down a ladder ie facing the snow and kick stepping down.

The pair I spoke to had just brought along their ice axes (ie no rope, carabiners, belay gear, etc), and while the ascent up the final 400 was ok, they had decided to descend via the walk-off. Where it gets eerie is I distinctly recall mentioning that the walk-off can become treacherously slippery if it is wet or snowy/icy. Their response was that they had seen boot tracks, so they figured someone had already made it through ok.

I've been thinking about this event for the last few days, and my conclusion based on the comments is while the climber wasn't from their party (I think they were just a duo - by the description the last climbers that day), I 'm pretty sure the boot tracks they saw were the fallen hiker's. They may also have been the hikers that spotted the accident site/body and notified SAR.

Bob West posted an opinion here http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/53080/gonew/1/Ice_Axes_and_Crampons that touches on some aspects of if/when it's OK to get involved in someone else's business. I don't want to sound like a nag, and even my casual comments about the walk-off (and raised eyebrow at the lack of rope) could be perceived as interference, and yet, you find out later that "things do happen" and wonder if/how they can be prevented/managed.


Edited by Hobbes (05/14/18 06:45 AM)

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#53117 - 05/14/18 09:08 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: KL0688]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
This picture repeated from above:


KL0688 shared some more information on the situation. The hiker who fell went up the Mt Whitney Main Trail, and camped with his two companions near Consultation Lake. Saturday morning, they continued up almost to Trail Crest, and parted at that point, with the two heading back down the main trail.

He continued on up to the summit. Then he proceeded down via the Mountaineers Route, taking the "Easy Walk-off" traverse from the summit slope eastward toward "The Notch". There is a satellite image showing the two routes on the Whitney summit here. The accident occurred just left of the point where the "Final 400" red line meets the purple "Easy Walk-off" line.

He slipped or tripped, losing both ice axes in the process, where the traverse path needs to descend 5 or 10 feet to clear a bare granite "nose". In the picture above, it is horizontally just below center, and a little left of center. In the current conditions, the granite below that point is completely covered with ice/snow. Without any ice axe, there is no way he could stop the slide. Other hikers using the "Final 400" route reported it was extremely icy, so it took them a long time to descend, even using ropes.

So sad.

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#53118 - 05/14/18 09:29 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
Now this is getting really eerie. When my hiking partner and I were resting @ Outpost on Friday 5/4, a group of 3 guys hiked by on their way to make camp higher up. One of them was carrying a blow-up doll as a stand-in for a 4th friend who had sprained an ankle and couldn't make it. They were laughing how they were going to use an IG tag #mikemadeit. We never saw/heard about them again - you'd think someone on the trail would see/remark about a life sized doll.

When we reached Trail camp late Friday afternoon, there was only one other couple camped there. Since we took the winter route following the Consultation drainage, we had considered staying by the (completely frozen) lake. We ended up declining because we didn't want to melt snow (we had sufficient fuel but still looking for an out) and were hoping the pond had some melt water (which it did). That being said, we didn't see any tents by Consultation until we walked out Sunday am, but the one tent was probably a late Saturday arrival.

We got a (purposely) late start around 8am Sat 5/5, since we were also going to be spending a 2nd night @ TC, and didn't feel like we needed to jam just to get back before 4-5pm.

We never saw this trio on the way up the Chute, and I don't recall passing anyone coming back from the summit except for one other person near the needles. Now I'm wondering if it was these we had spoken to @ OP. It would make sense if the two who turned around @ Crest came back before we began, leaving their friend to continue.

From what is being gathered here, I'm pretty sure the boot tracks the two MR climbers saw that I spoke to were the fallen hiker's.


Edited by Hobbes (05/14/18 09:46 AM)

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#53119 - 05/14/18 09:45 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Hobbes, the party of three included a woman. At 8:20 AM (gps track point), they were on the trail between Consultation and Trail Camp, elev. ~11,900. They parted near there.

So you climbed to Trail Crest ahead of the lone hiker, but you would have crossed paths with him either at the summit, or on your way back. (you wrote, "except for one other person near the needles". Did you happen to get a picture of the summit register?

Anyone coming up the traverse route from the Notch would have definitely spoken about the two ice axes lying on the snow -- they were right by the traverse route. They might have descended behind the fallen hiker, as his fall likely occurred Saturday around noon.

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#53120 - 05/14/18 09:56 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
No, we didn't sign the register. We passed only one hiker on the way back from the summit as our bubble proceeded forward.

At the risk of rote speculation, I now think I know who the fallen hiker was. If it's the person I think it is, he started the Chute with me and BlueWater. If you go back to the conditions report (http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/53051), you can see him in the photos. He had two ice axes, and he was using them to climb the Chute like an ice waterfall ie holding the handles and swinging the pick axe heads into the snow.

We both remarked he had a heavy coat, no backpack and no noticeable means of carrying water. (Look at BW's remarks here: http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=18106&start=10 If it's him, he's in 3 or 4 photos). I thought he had turned around at the Crest, but BW said he had carried on to the peak. We never passed him on the way back, and we never saw him again.


Edited by Hobbes (05/14/18 10:01 AM)

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#53121 - 05/14/18 10:25 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Hobbes, it sounds like this hiker in all these pictures. Right?










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#53130 - 05/14/18 03:05 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
bluewater Offline


Registered: 05/02/12
Posts: 12
Loc: Ca
Yes, I remember that person. He was wearing a brown down jacket, black pants, black glasses (prescription with clear lenses/not sun glasses) and two ice axes. I spoke with him a few times on the way up, and I saw him on the summit. As I arrived he was heading down, but I didn't ask (and he didn't say) which way he was going to descend. He definitely had two ice axes (as Hobbes already said). He is the person in the first four photos in the post above here. He said that he had camped at Consultation Lake the night before with two other people but that they did not go for the summit.

The person in the fifth photo was another person, named Kyle. He had also separated from his group. We talked at the summit for a while. He said that his buddies (I think there were two other guys in his group) had reached the summit before him. I remember him asking if he could descend with some of the other people who were on the summit and had talked about taking the trail route down. I saw that couple later but I did not see Kyle again.

I'm going through photos now to check for any others of him. I have the high res originals.

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#53140 - 05/15/18 01:50 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: bluewater]
Maverick Offline


Registered: 02/11/13
Posts: 101
Loc: CA

SEKI will be releasing something soon, there is another incident that will be combined with this one, which is what's causing the delay.

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#53143 - 05/15/18 04:03 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: tntorr]
Maverick Offline


Registered: 02/11/13
Posts: 101
Loc: CA
SEKI NP:
Quote:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release                         Reference Number: 8550-1815
Contact: Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, Public Affairs Officer
Phone Number: 559-565-3131
E-mail: sintia_kawasaki-yee@nps.gov

          Two Fatalities in Sequoia National Park

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. May 15, 2018 - Two fatalities occurred in Sequoia National Park, less than ten days apart, one on Mount Whitney and one on the Watchtower section of the Lakes Trail in Lodgepole.

On Saturday, May 5 a party of two reported that during their descent of Mount Whitney, they had found two ice axes and what appeared to be a blood trail leading to a body about 1,500 to 2,000 feet below the ice axes. That same day two other people called the park to report that their friend had not returned from a solo summit attempt via the Mountaineers Route.

The next day rangers recovered the body and transported it to Ash Mountain Helibase where it was turned over to the Tulare County Coronerís office. The body was later identified as Eric Juliani, 29 years of age from New Jersey, the person reported overdue by his two friends the day prior.

Conditions along the Mountaineers Route are still snow covered and icy, and will remain so for an undetermined length of time. Some written descriptions of the route note at least one area that holds ďwater iceĒ and poses significant risks to climbers attempting to pass it. Specialized equipment such as ice axes and crampons, and experience and training in using them, are generally deemed necessary to safely traverse this route at this time of year.

The second fatality was reported on Sunday, May 13. The park was notified of a hiker that had fallen from the Watchtower section of the Lakes Trail. Anton Dokov, 29 years of age from San Diego, slipped on the ice and snow, and slid over a cliff. Rangers responded that same day, but dangerous ice and snow conditions with a very steep slope, meant they had to turn around. The next day park rangers were able to find the body, but were unable to retrieve it due to the complexity and technical aspects of the recovery. On Tuesday, May 15 the body was recovered and transported to the Ash Mountain Helibase, where it will be turned over to the Tulare County Coronerís office.

Mr. Dokov was hiking the Lakes Trail towards Pear Lake at the time of the fall. Hikers are cautioned that winter conditions still exist at higher elevations, and extreme caution is necessary.

ďAlthough weíre getting warmer weather in the valley, conditions at higher elevations are still very cold with snow and ice. Even the most experienced hikers with the best gear can encounter challenges in these conditions,Ē said Chris Trotter, U.S. Park Ranger.


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#53152 - 05/16/18 11:23 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Maverick]
jchapell Offline


Registered: 03/23/16
Posts: 11
Loc: Colorado
I wonder if one of the early posts could be edited to include the news Release and pertinent details so that future readers/hikers could learn/learn from the important details (like Steve's Post 53117) without digging through all the inside baseball posts.

Facts: A hiker went up the main trail with friends, but eventually continued on after his friends turned around ~Trail Crest. He attempted to descend the Mountaineer's Route "Walk Off" Traverse, and near the Notch at the base of the Final 400 slipped/tripped and was unable to arrest his fall before a cliff.

Unkowns: His descent on the Mountaineer's Route may have been a mistake, intending instead to be on the Main Trail. It is unknown if conditions or a stumble (or combination) led to his slide and eventual fall, or how conditions or experience contributed to his inability to arrest. The area around the Walk-Off Notch can be steep, icy, and contain unconsolidated or hard packed snow, but other hikers did safely summit via the Mountaineer's Route through the notch the same day.

There are obviously reminders about route finding, route assessment, and appropriate skills/experience, but if there are any other insights on the route this time of the season, I'm certainly interested - heading up for a second time this weekend.
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#55459 - 06/19/19 09:21 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: jchapell]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: jchapell
Facts: A hiker went up the main trail with friends, but eventually continued on after his friends turned around ~Trail Crest. He attempted to descend the Mountaineer's Route "Walk Off" Traverse, and near the Notch at the base of the Final 400 slipped/tripped and was unable to arrest his fall before a cliff.

Unkowns: His descent on the Mountaineer's Route may have been a mistake, intending instead to be on the Main Trail. It is unknown if conditions or a stumble (or combination) led to his slide and eventual fall, or how conditions or experience contributed to his inability to arrest. The area around the Walk-Off Notch can be steep, icy, and contain unconsolidated or hard packed snow, but other hikers did safely summit via the Mountaineer's Route through the notch the same day.

There are obviously reminders about route finding, route assessment, and appropriate skills/experience, but if there are any other insights on the route this time of the season, I'm certainly interested - heading up for a second time this weekend.


My conclusion to this is that he began this descent by mistake. It HAD to be a mistake, because his overnight gear remained near the Main Trail, and he needed to go back that way to pick it up. People cannot get to Consultation Lake by descending this route. They would need to re-climb 3000' vertical feet up the main trail to get back to that point.

Below are two telling pictures from his fateful descent. click on each to see the full-size image, showing his two lost ice axes and his slide tracks. (Ice axes had already been retrieved by hikers in second picture.)




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#55460 - 06/19/19 10:40 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
BFR Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 122
Loc: Santa Monica, CA
I am against unnecessary wilderness signs, but given the number of people who attempt Whitney who do not have experience, perhaps the government should consider putting warning signs specifically at the Notch and at the summit plateau with more signs toward the MWT.
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#55461 - 06/19/19 10:46 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: BFR]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7831
Loc: Fresno, CA
Note: This topic has resurrected since it appears a repeat death occurred in June, 2019:
    Recovered: Ling Dao - Missing Whitney Hiker, Last Seen 6/12

Originally Posted By: BFR
I am against unnecessary wilderness signs, but given the number of people who attempt Whitney who do not have experience, perhaps the government should consider putting warning signs specifically at the Notch and at the summit plateau with more signs toward the MWT.

I was think the same thing -- at the point where people leave the summit plateau and start descending the north side. A
"Stop - Read This" sign would possibly save lives.

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#55462 - 06/19/19 11:09 AM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Steve C]
BFR Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 122
Loc: Santa Monica, CA
It bugs me that the government has the gall to charge for a permit to hike Mt Whitney but doesn't take some commonsense measures to protect human life.

Mt Whitney should probably be treated differently than any other Sierra peak given its appeal to the masses.


Edited by BFR (06/19/19 11:09 AM)
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#55463 - 06/19/19 12:05 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: BFR]
Clmbr Offline


Registered: 06/19/19
Posts: 4
Loc: CA
Ling Dao's accident happened Wednesday of last week. The previous Sunday (four days earlier) a friend and I summitted via the MR and descended via the main trail.

My initial reaction is that it is difficult for me to see how this could have been a mistake. There was a well-trodden boot path that went directly to the hut and this was what almost everyone was using. It did not follow the trail. It bypassed the section of the trail that jogs to the west and then east again-- that is, the section that contains the junction with the walk-off traverse.

We need to get more information regarding exactly where the accident happened (was it on the walk-off traverse variation of the MR, or on the "Final 400" couloir?) But we should consider the possibility that he intended to descend to via the MR.

Either way it would be amply obvious to anyone that they are NOT on the trail and NOT going back the way they came. I don't see how additional signage would have prevented this. And since the trail was buried in snow, not even people using the walk-off traverse would necessarily go by the junction (and any sign placed there.) I should add that the snow was think enough to bury signs in some places.

I think the FS was adequately briefing hikers, informing them that the trail was buried in snow and they were facing winter mountaineering conditions. This was indeed the case.

Short of closing of access to the mountain, I do not see how the FS can stop these kinds of accidents in these kinds of conditions. (Do not laugh--this has happened with Mt. Baldy. There have been times when the FS has just shut down all access do the mountain for this reason.)

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#55464 - 06/19/19 12:09 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: BFR]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
I've made it to the peak 7 times via every route (except east buttress), every direction, and every weather/trail condition.

Even though I know where I'm going and what I'm doing (sort of), I've still had moments of being slightly disoriented, and others where I've had to self-arrest.

When my buddy and I summitted last year on 5/5 (the day the prior north-west face fatality occurred), I distinctly recall having a conversation about noting where to turn back to the main trail.

It was days later when I found out a fellow hiker who had climbed the Chute next to us (ending up in a lot of photos) was the one who had taken a wrong turn and slipped & fell.

Whitney is no joke - the problem is it's easy to get to, moderately challenging to actually climb, but it's still @ 14.5k and still has areas with cliffs. If you are at all unprepared, or treat the risk lightly, things can go south in a hurry.

It took the parks/FS years to fix the 3-way sign @ the JMT/MMWT junction. Before, many people had turned right (downhill) since the old 2-way sign was fairly generic as to trail & peak directions.

I don't think it would take much to place a simple sign on the hut calling attention to the fact that the main trail was to the left (as you descend) and the dangerous NW side and MR are to the right.


Edited by Hobbes (06/19/19 12:16 PM)

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#55465 - 06/19/19 12:26 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
bobpickering Online


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 424
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Iím with Clmbr. This is the wilderness. The wilderness experience is all about self-reliance. The USFS warns people of the dangers and reminds us to do our homework and know what weíre doing. When signs donít prevent accidents, will we all clamor for guardrails?

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#55466 - 06/19/19 12:56 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: bobpickering]
BFR Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 122
Loc: Santa Monica, CA
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
Iím with Clmbr. This is the wilderness. The wilderness experience is all about self-reliance. The USFS warns people of the dangers and reminds us to do our homework and know what weíre doing. When signs donít prevent accidents, will we all clamor for guardrails?


I have a hard time disagreeing with you. My only comment is that Mt Whitney seems to be in a different category. There are all sorts of signs along the way. It has the nicest trail of any 14er to the summit. It invites all sorts of overambitious folks. Perhaps the right approach is to remove the trail and get rid of all the signs.
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#55467 - 06/19/19 01:11 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: BFR]
Clmbr Offline


Registered: 06/19/19
Posts: 4
Loc: CA
There is a middle ground between the two extremes.

I would be fine with better signage being put in at the Muir Trail / Whitney Trail junction (that is a real problem spot). The junction with the walk-off traverse is less problematic. It is pretty obvious where the trail is. The walk-off does not look like a trail, and isn't even noticeable to most people. But even here, a sign could be added. Just a sign with an arrow pointing left that says "Trail" would suffice.

I would not see the sign making a difference in this latest incident though.

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#55468 - 06/19/19 01:13 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
jaym Offline


Registered: 09/10/18
Posts: 16
Loc: San Pedro
I was maybe 1/2 mile down the main trail from the summit when Mr Dao likely fell. I should have encountered him coming up as I was going down but I did not remember him clearly. The weather on the summit was beautiful. Sunny, warm, super clear and no wind with a very obvious way down to the main trail. I was thinking of going up the Mountaineering Route (MR) until I saw a post by here "Jeston" that described the "Easy Walk-Off" Traverse on the MR being "insanely sketchy". (The MR's final 400 climb is too technical for me and my dog). After further researching the posts in this forum, I dubbed the "Easy Walk-Off" as the "Easy Walk-Off of Death" (when not completely dry) and decided not to go anywhere near it. As demonstrated by my "Darwin Award" trip report, I am not so sure I would have been non-stupid enough to stop at the MR's Notch.

I think some temporary signs with wireless tracker device for retrieval/repositioning (e.g. www.breadcrumbtech.com) may be a good idea when trails are covered in snow. Especially, to lessen trail switchback cutting when trails become partially uncovered.


Edited by jaym (06/19/19 02:06 PM)

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#55471 - 06/19/19 02:43 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Clmbr]
Jonathan C Offline


Registered: 03/03/19
Posts: 29
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: Clmbr
But we should consider the possibility that he intended to descend to via the MR.

My gut feeling based on everything I've read is that this is the case. He was apparently a marathon runner in great shape. The report above of great weather and visibility. He could have been looking to mix it up and do a loop. He may have done some amount of research, but not enough to be aware of the true nature of that path in snow-covered conditions. Perhaps we'll learn where he fell, which would indicate a lot more about what happened, but he could have gotten partway across the traverse and decided it would be safer to complete it rather than turn back. If I look at Gaia GPS right now this is what I see (below). All discretion is left to the user to know that some of those dotted lines are very different than others.

Unless if he fell close to the sharp turn or was suffering from extreme hypoxia, I agree it's hard to imagine that anyone with even a hint of hiking experience (assuming good visibility) would be disoriented once they started making their way east down the walkoff.


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#55473 - 06/19/19 03:09 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Jonathan C]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
It looks like this thread could become yet another endless loop of speculation and assertion. So, perhaps we can agree to a set of certain stipulations in an attempt to narrow focus.

1. I have never heard of anyone intentionally going clockwise up the trail and back down the MR. While I'm sure someone will dig up some obscure reference example, anyone doing either cursory or in-depth research will immediately find out that counter-clockwise is the preferred direction if one is going to do a circuit.

Think about - it makes perfect sense: you want to be climbing up the e-ledges, you want to be climbing up the gully, and you want to be climbing up the final 400. After reaching the summit, anyone in pretty good shape can then literally jog back down the main trail (when dry) if so inclined.

2. If you have never been up on the summit when the trail/talus is covered by snow, then it would make sense to question how anyone could possibly get lost. However, when there is snow, there are dozens of separate snow tracks as each individual climber/hiker makes their own path. It's only when you get off the summit block that a consistent trail begins to consolidate, but ever then there can be variations until the main trail really (re)establishes itself further down by the needles.

Now, a 3rd element that hasn't been discussed is (a) each climber/hiker was solo; (b) it was their first trip/attempt; and (c) the journeys were conducted in alpine conditions. Doesn't this sound like a recipe for disaster? Who here commenting, including those who summitted before/after, were solo? OK, I know Bob was up there, so let's add another condition: who was up there solo for their first time? (See what I did there - Bob is a noted experienced mountaineer.)

By now I assume everyone is getting where I'm going with this. We can't put more responsibility on FS personnel - it's not their job to baby sit. A few years ago while picking up a permit, I lightly brought up the subject as someone else had recently walked off a cliff. Boy, did that immediately raise hackles; my guess is maybe an attorney was sniffing around looking for contributory negligence.

Anyway, the FS isn't going to eliminate the trail and it's not going to block access. So, the status quo remains. But, if a peak in perhaps the marque national park can have (safety) cables, why couldn't Whitney at least have a (modest) sign with a reminder of which way is which?


Edited by Hobbes (06/19/19 03:11 PM)

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#55476 - 06/19/19 05:24 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
jaym Offline


Registered: 09/10/18
Posts: 16
Loc: San Pedro
"An air search located the body of Ling Dao on the north side of the 14,505-foot (4,421-meter) mountain in Sequoia National Park, according to a statement from the Inyo County Sheriff's Office."

"Dao was last seen alive at the summit by other hikers June 12, who informed authorities of the location which ultimately led them to his body about 1,900 feet (579 meters) from the summit at an altitude of about 12,600 feet (3,841 meters), Kawasaki-Yee said."

linktostory

This places him in the valley between Whitney and Russell I believe. So it would seem either he slipped while trying to get a "gander" at the Mountaineering Route or was actually trying to decend the MR.

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#55478 - 06/19/19 05:28 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
Clmbr Offline


Registered: 06/19/19
Posts: 4
Loc: CA
>>>>". If you have never been up on the summit when the trail/talus is covered by snow, then it would make sense to question how anyone could possibly get lost. However, when there is snow, there are dozens of separate snow tracks as each individual climber/hiker makes their own path. It's only when you get off the summit block that a consistent trail begins to consolidate, but ever then there can be variations until the main trail really (re)establishes itself further down by the needles."

I have summitted Whitney more than 20 times using various routes, mostly the trail and the MR, but also the E. Face and the E. Buttress. I was on Whitney four days prior to Ling Dao's ascent. Above it is implied that it would NOT make sense to question how someone could get lost if you have been there when there is snow. Well, like I said, I was just up there in the snow a few days prior to Ling Dao, and I think this has it backwards. It would have been more difficult to get get lost.

There was a very prominent boot track (essentially a well-trafficked and very obvious trail, that went south). It would have been very difficult for any person in the presence of their mind to confuse the other isolated footprints going to the Final 400 or the walk-off traverse for the main trail.

Also, the main snow trail in use did not jog west to like the official constructed trail does. The official constructed trail takes you quite a ways towards the walk-off traverse, but was buried in the snow, and was not the way most people were going.

As to the other points:

From posts I read, I got the impression that maybe Ling had been intending to go up the MR all along but had missed the turn-off in the dark. If that was the case, it would make more sense for him to want to go down that way.

And while going up the MR and down the trail is more common, this is especially in summer conditions and especially among the "we have to save our knees crowd" (hey, there is no shame--I am car-carrying member :-). Hiking down the talus is hard on the knees, and so a lot of people opt to take the gentler trail. But in current conditions (with the talus covered with snow), I think it makes a lot of sense to down the MR. You can avoid the traversing trail (which has a lot of sketchy sections right now) and get a lot of glissading in. After going down the trail, we were somewhat regretting not going back down the MR.

Nobody is jogging down the main trail right now--at least not until they get past Lone Pine Lake. (Like you said, jogging is for when the trail is dry.) The MR is the fastest, and most direct way down right now.

And as a marathon runner, I expect Ling was not part of the "save your knees" crowd.

Regarding going solo: Having partners definitely increases the margin of safety. Agreed. You have more people looking out for you. If you get hurt or have trouble, your buddies can help. If you start going the wrong way, hopefully one of your buddies has been more attentive and corrects your mistake.

But unless you are roped, the actual amount of safety you get from being part of a team on a snow/ice slope like this is illusory. People might *feel* safer because there are other people there with them, doing what they are doing, but essentially, absent a rope, when you are on a slope like this you are doing an unroped solo.

For better or worse, I have gone on many solo trips, and it would not bother me that it was a peak that I had not been up before. (If I encounter conditions I am not comfortable continuing solo on, I will simply turn around. No big deal.)

I agree this is not the FS's fault. If we make it their responsibility, they'd have to just shut down the mountain.

I would be fine with a sign being added with an arrow. But I don't expect it to stop accidents like this. I suspect that Ling knew where he was going. As to Eric, well maybe... With his gear near Trail Camp, he would want to go back that way. But at some point soon after leaving the trail, he must have realized that he was NOT in Kansas anymore and going down a different route from how he had come up.

Something we haven't discussed yet. A lot of people like shortcuts, especially going downhill. Look at all the use trails cutting switchbacks, including those in places were you can't even see the trail down below. Who knows why he went down that way. But it is possible he thought he was on a shortcut.

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#55479 - 06/19/19 05:38 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Clmbr]
Clmbr Offline


Registered: 06/19/19
Posts: 4
Loc: CA
Another thought: Take non-climbers/non-mountaineers to the edge of a cliff. Without having any experience, they will automatically recognize it as dangerous and shy away from the edge. You will get this response almost 100% of the time.

Take the same person to a moderately steep snow slope. I submit that you will see a much greater variance in responses. Some will automatically recognize the slope as dangerous. But many will not--especially if they see other people on it, or the tracks of other people.

I think that snow slopes do not look automatically dangerous to many of us the same way vertical cliffs do. They look deceptively gentle and moderate. It's only with experience that we learn that moderate snow slope can be just as deadly as a vertical cliff.

That is why you see hundreds of people with no training or experience marching up or glissading down the Baldy Bowl or Whitney Chute without ice axes or crampons. If they had more experience or training would engender them with more respect and fear... For many this is a learned response. You don't see the same situation with cliffs, even those that are only third class with good handholds and footholds.

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#55480 - 06/19/19 06:35 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Clmbr]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 435
Loc: Reno, NV
Originally Posted By: Clmbr
Who knows why he went down that way. But it is possible he thought he was on a shortcut.


From what I read online...his itinerary - "According to the reporting party, Dao flew into Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 11, had planned to summit Mt. Whitney on June 12, drive back to Las Vegas after summiting and catch a red-eye flight back home, to be at work on Thursday, June 13.

Perhaps he needed a quick descent to maintain his intended schedule.

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#55484 - 06/19/19 09:03 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: Anton]
TrekkingPole Offline


Registered: 10/25/15
Posts: 3
Loc: California
Speculation, but worth mentioning. Perhaps he made it to the summit and saw some folks heading down the "Easy walk-off" and just assumed that was the proper way to go down and then headed that way.

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#55576 - 06/28/19 08:01 PM Re: Hiker fell on Whitney [Re: TrekkingPole]
nyker Offline


Registered: 07/26/12
Posts: 211
Loc: New York
Whatever the cause and reasoning, RIP Ling Dao.

For any of Ling's friends or family reading this, my thoughts are with you during this hard time.

Most of us here have had close calls in the mountains at some point and sometimes despite the best laid plans and preparation, bad luck strikes.

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