Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered

Posted by: Bob West

Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/16/14 05:16 PM

A search is underway for a missing Mt. Whitney hiker. Did anyone see this person?

http://www.sierrawave.net/30655/for-missing-hiker/
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/16/14 06:21 PM

Thanks for posting Bob.

Here's the SierraWave article and picture:
Quote:
Inyo, Mono SAR look for missing hiker
June 16, 2014

The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office was notified yesterday afternoon that 60-year-old John Likely

from Dumont, NJ had been separated from his hiking group and hadn’t been seen since June 14th. According to information received, a group of three friends who have hiked together regularly throughout the years, summited Mt. Whitney on June 14th. During the decent down the trail, Likely was hiking at a slower pace than the other two members of the group; according to the reporting party it was not uncommon to go on ahead of Likely.

The two members of the hiking group continued their decent at a faster pace, and waited for Likely at Trail Camp. They could see Likely continuing down the switchbacks with their binoculars and decided they would continue on to Outpost Camp where they were to spend the night. Likely never made it to Outpost Camp. The two-person group searched for their friend the night of June 14th, and the morning of the 15th. The Sheriff’s Office was contacted and immediately responded with Inyo County Search and Rescue ground crews. Additional ground support is currently being provided by Mono County Search and Rescue, as well as China Lake Mountain Rescue Group. CHP helicopter H-80 is also assisting in the search.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for any information from hikers who may have seen John Likely over the weekend. Likely is reported to be wearing a red San Francisco 49ers ball cap, a black jacket, dark colored shorts and a small backpack, he has gray hair and no facial hair. Please call Sheriff’s Dispatch at 760-878-0383 if you have any information that could assist in this search.


Edit June 18: The Inyo County Sheriff's Office website is posting daily updates here:
Media & Press Releases
  June 16,2014
  June 17, 2014
  June 18, 2014


Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/16/14 07:47 PM

Wow, hopefully he makes it off the mountain ok.

On my last trip (June 3-4) we to two different hikers that had lost the trail between Trail Camp and Outpost Camp. I thought that it was due to the snow, but if this hiker got lost in the same area, it doesn't seem that snow could be to blame anymore.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/16/14 08:02 PM

Originally Posted By: 63ChevyII.com
Wow, hopefully he makes it off the mountain ok.

On my last trip (June 3-4) we to two different hikers that had lost the trail between Trail Camp and Outpost Camp. I thought that it was due to the snow, but if this hiker got lost in the same area, it doesn't seem that snow could be to blame anymore.


Late in the day, the pound down the switchers and ledges from the "last foxtail" to Mirror Lake has claimed (and hidden) its victims. That's where I would concentrate this search.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/16/14 11:15 PM

Reminds me of this fellow who was found near Mirror Lake in 2012: Missing Hiker for 36+ Hours

It is easy to lose the trail, especially in the dark in that area.

I always have a tough time reading about fast hikers taking off and leaving their slowest members on the mountain. Maybe these hikers did that often, but it just doesn't make sense. Doug at the Portal Store gets hundreds of people wandering in worrying about the people they left back up on the trail. In the "bad" memories I have had while hiking all involve hikers leaving the slowest behind.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 06:22 AM

This is a story that repeats itself over and over, but some hikers never get the lesson until it happens to themselves or one of their friends.

The annals of SAR teams record that the separation of hiking parties from each other is one of the leading contributors to tragedy.
Posted by: hikin_jim

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 09:44 AM

Originally Posted By: Bob West
the separation of hiking parties from each other is one of the leading contributors to tragedy.
That sure seems to be the case. Yeah, I get it that it's a pain for a fast person to walk at a "clipped" pace, but is the risk worth it?

I've seen some groups put the slowest person up front and go from there. Stopping and waiting for everyone at every junction or trail sign was my dad's way of keeping our large family all together, and he would slow down (a lot -- he was pretty fast) in the first place to keep everyone together. Preaching to the choir I'm sure, here.

I hope he's OK, but the fact that he hasn't wandered into someone's camp yet gives me a bad feeling.

HJ
Posted by: Hangin Tough

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:20 AM

I have a routine that I have always used when hiking with a group of more than two people. I call it the 10 minute rule. Dates back to my days as a boy scout under Scout Master Robert Parker. Every ten minutes you look back until you see the person that was behind you. They know you are looking back to see them. If all is good you wave at each other and then get back to hiking. If not they can signal you that they need help. Each person in front will know something is wrong when they don't see the person behind them within 5 minutes of the 10 minute mark. This way with a group of seven hikers the fastest hiker will only get about 1 hour ahead of the slowest hiker.

I hope this hiker is OK and waiting to be found. My thoughts are with the whole hiking community. I hate to hear of a fellow hiker not coming out.
Posted by: 2Old4This

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:43 AM

Not only is it more dangerous for both the slow hiker and the fast hiker to separate, why are you even hiking together if you don't want to hike together? Don't you hike with a partner, both to assist each other physically - be there if one of you is injured for instance - and for companionship. You lose both of those benefits if you run off.

I ride a bike, and I ride slower than I'm capable of if I'm out on a ride with a slower person. If I'm riding with a faster rider,my experience has been that they slow down for me, otherwise you're on a solo ride. How or why is hiking any different? (Other than it makes even more sense to have a partner than in bike riding.)
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 11:54 AM

Originally Posted By: hikin_jim

I've seen some groups put the slowest person up front and go from there.


When I am 'leading' a group I try to encourage that, but unfortunately, the slowest person isn't always willing to set the pace. Much of the time I will end up setting the pace and will move at a speed that keeps the slowest person in sight.

I have found at times that it is tough to move at someone's pace if they are significantly slower than you. When I plan hikes like Whitney, I try to make sure that everyone is able to buddy up with someone that hikes at a similar pace.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 12:21 PM


This is timely.... the latest Wilderness and Environmental Med J had several articles on search methods and stats:



these are not all in the mountains but you get the jist of these averages (of where they are found from site of departure). The wording is my paraphrasing and the numbers are approx from my memory of reading the article last night: :

1-3 yo infant : no route finding skills, tend to hole up in cubby hole, found within 0.2 miles

4-6 yo child: some route finding/can follow trail. Found within 0.6 miles

hikers: most common cause of being lost is an oblivious miss of trail junction, or an obscured/confusing junction. May wander around looking for clues. Surprisingly only 52% are found at lower altitude. I thought it would be more than that. They explained the stats are being skewed by people seeking cell phone reception at higher rather than lower slopes, where people normally would tend to go. Average distance: 1.6 miles

elderly/demented: no route finding skills. Do not attempt to communicate (don't know they are lost). Walk in generally the same direction until stopped by a barrier. 0.4mi. A whopping 45 % are found dead.

From another article: (1) solo hikers are the largest group of victims (2) backtracking to find where you are is more appropriate than plowing ahead, but is the least used method by the victim. (This is influenced by the lack of recognition that they are lost.)


I am surprised the man has not been found yet. This does not bode well.
Posted by: wagga

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 01:43 PM

The Sierra Club sweep system works very well... do not get ahead of the leader or behind the sweep. Leader does a head count at every opportunity. And leader always stops at any trail junction to allow the group to coalesce.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 02:36 PM

Originally Posted By: saltydog
Originally Posted By: 63ChevyII.com
Wow, hopefully he makes it off the mountain ok.

On my last trip (June 3-4) we to two different hikers that had lost the trail between Trail Camp and Outpost Camp. I thought that it was due to the snow, but if this hiker got lost in the same area, it doesn't seem that snow could be to blame anymore.


Late in the day, the pound down the switchers and ledges from the "last foxtail" to Mirror Lake has claimed (and hidden) its victims. That's where I would concentrate this search.


My thoughts and prayers are with him, his family & friends, and the searchers.

As always I agree with Salty.

In 98 an inexperienced friend of the family joined up with a church group on a summit bid. He started late, turned around after 5 PM and then got lost between TC and Mirror Lake in the twilight.

His knees gave out going down the hard rocky bluffs above Mirror Lake. He saw the reflection of the lake gloaming in the twilight making a beeline for it. He didn't remember the sizable cliff of 150-300 feet that separates the MWMT from Mirror Lake. He slipped and slid 80 ft down the incline until he was stopped by a pine sapling on a narrow slanted ledge above the lake.

He spent the night until InyoSAR detected him and they were able to rescue him the next morning.

I think that section of trail is easy to lose. You lose the packed down sand of the lower regions and the compacted scralus of the upper portions. You really have to look ahead to know where you are going.

IMHO I'd focus the search to that region.
Posted by: Daves Not Here

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 05:33 PM

I left Outpost Camp at 9:00 PM Sunday evening. My partner and I did not encounter anyone on trail from Outpost all the way to Trail camp. We were stopped a few times on the descent and asked if we had seen John. It didn't occur to me at the time to mention this, so I just called the Inyo Sheriff to report it.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 05:42 PM

He's been missing a long time - 3 days now. Here Tuesday evening, I called the posted phone number and asked. He has not been found!

...still holding out hope.
Posted by: Daves Not Here

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 06:14 PM

We encountered 30 mph winds with gusts to the mid 40's, the temperature was in the mid 30's with out the wind chill. Unfortunately this isn't going to end well. I don't know what time it was when his friends say they last saw him, but he was below the cables according to them. There are quite a few places along the trail between Mirror Lake and Trail camp that you can go over the edge. He will probably be found in this area. My thoughts are on him and his family.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 06:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Snacking Bear
He didn't remember the sizable cliff of 150-300 feet that separates the MWMT from Mirror Lake. He slipped and slid 80 ft down the incline until he was stopped by a pine sapling on a narrow slanted ledge above the lake.

He spent the night until InyoSAR detected him and they were able to rescue him the next morning.

I think that section of trail is easy to lose. You lose the packed down sand of the lower regions and the compacted scralus of the upper portions. You really have to look ahead to know where you are going.

IMHO I'd focus the search to that region.


I am just drawing a blank on this area that people are talking about...cliff? Could someone post pictures of the area if they have them?
Posted by: BruinDave

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 06:58 PM

Hey Bee:

If it's the same location I'm thinking of, it's where Mirror Lake first comes into view on your left when descending the Main Trail from Trailside Meadow. A couple of years ago during a July hike (the heavy snow year), a buddy and I saw two guys take a shortcut by glissading down the slope immediately adjacent to the left of the Main Trail at this location, and they almost made it all the way to Mirror. It is definitely a significant slope, but at this location the path-like trail is clearly marked. I think I took a photo (or video) of them, and I'll see if I can find it.

Many on this Board and the WPSMB are hoping for a safe return of Mr. Likely and the SAR teams working hard up there.

BruinDave
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 07:04 PM

Even a 2 foot fall is a dangerous cliff. Presumably he was off trail, and so there are cliffs everywhere, 2 ft and more .

For that matter, you do not even need a cliff. Just falling from your own height is bad enough. All of us are speculators, and someone will say morbid. But lessons are there.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 09:53 PM

Thanks, Dave. I think that I might have been in some sort of trance when I passed this area (on the way back) because I have drawn a blank on it in the past when this area was brought up. I remember going up some slabby sort of area on the way up, and I thought that one could possibly get confused in the dark, if he/she was not in good order.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 09:56 PM

Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
Even a 2 foot fall is a dangerous cliff. Presumably he was off trail, and so there are cliffs everywhere, 2 ft and more .

For that matter, you do not even need a cliff. Just falling from your own height is bad enough. All of us are speculators, and someone will say morbid. But lessons are there.


I could not agree with you more, Harvey. A dear friend slipped on solid ground, fell wrong and sadly, it was fatal.

I have just about outlawed "flip-flops" for my elderly mother for this reason.
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 09:57 PM

Bee, I know the cliff they're talking about. I and my friends have many pictures at this location on the trail. I will look to see if I can find one to post. This missing hiker has been on my mind ever since I heard about this. His friends who left him behind make me mad. I hate hearing that his friends did not stay with him.

I remember a cliff as you leave Outpost camp to make your way down to Lone Pine Lake but it sounds like he may not have made it this far, if he did he would have found his friends. My friends and I walked along the meadow leaving Outpost and walked too far. When we turned right at what we thought was a trail at the end of the meadow we walked right into a cliff and abruptly stopped. Wow, what a shocker that was. We were glad e had daylight, if it were night time one or all of us could have been goners.

I believe if you are disoriented you should STOP and STAY at the first moment you realize something is wrong. Hopefully you're a smart hiker who carries emergency supplies.

I'm still hoping he will be found alive.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:02 PM

I guess I need to pay more attention; none of this cliff-talk is ringing any bells. I guess I need a refresher smile

In the meantime, any "photo" refreshers would bee appreciated.
Posted by: Fishmonger

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Bee
I guess I need to pay more attention; none of this cliff-talk is ringing any bells. I guess I need a refresher smile

In the meantime, any "photo" refreshers would bee appreciated.


not sure myself, but I imagine it is the area towards the lake here, as the trail actually goes on to the east, rather than directly down to the lake

Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:21 PM

Ah, yes -- this is the granite area I remember while hiking away from the lake.

Sometimes I get tunnel vision when I am hiking, and I forget to look at the big picture (bee-ing somewhat of a non-photographer has its disadvantages)
Posted by: Hangin Tough

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:35 PM

I have often hiked in groups with hikers that hike at different paces. Hiking outside of your own pace, faster or slower, wears you down faster then hiking at your own pace. I get the feeling from the groups post that this group had hiked together before. I am sure that if they would have had any idea that their friend need their help. They would have been glued to his side. I do not get the impression they left him behind.
Posted by: Hangin Tough

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/17/14 10:37 PM

Great pic Fishmonger. That is exactly the area that has been discussed.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 02:45 AM

Bee, it's where the trail turns slabby on the ascent, just above timberline. Not particularly challenging on the way up, but on the descent, even with no snow, it's easy to lose the trail if you're not paying attention. There's one spot in particular where you need to swing left as you head down, but it's not real evident due to the slabby granite. Bearing straight ahead or to the right will take you to the cliffy section and potential trouble in very short order. I've had to backtrack to the correct route a couple of times in this area when my mind was wandering or I was focused on a conversation.

Really, if you're following the trail, this is the only area of any danger between Trail and Outpost camps. Fingers crossed for a good outcome, but 3 days . . .
Posted by: Akichow

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 05:40 AM

In July, in the high snow year, a friend and I made that error and stayed right, going down a gentle slab chute rather than staying on the partially snow- covered trail above Mirror Lake. We figured out our error quickly enough, but didn't backtrack -- it was morning and we had both good weather and good light. Instead, we figured out a safe way down that required a creek crossing and dropped us below Mirror Lake just above the switchbacks leading to Outpost. My friend, who was leading, was initially headed for the cliffs above Outpost. Having been on the trail before, and consulting topo, I warned her off and we turned left/north before the cliffs to drop down to the creek (there is one safe place to do this). Pretty sure we hooked up with a shortcut/section of the old trail during this detour.

Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 06:05 AM

Fishmonger,

Ye, this is the cliff area I was seeing in my mind. Great photo of the area.

Regarding my last post about a cliff near Outpost camp NOT FAR FROM where the trail leads down to Lone Pine Lake, I probably should have used the term "drop-off" instead of "cliff". It is a serious drop-off of about 10 to 15 feet surrounded by boulders, trees and shrubs. It could hurt someone seriously.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 08:28 AM

Thanks for the refresher -- especially the picture, Fish.

I am lucky that my buddies are patient enough to hang with me.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 09:02 AM

Originally Posted By: BruinDave
Hey Bee:

If it's the same location I'm thinking of, it's where Mirror Lake first comes into view on your left when descending the Main Trail from Trailside Meadow.

BruinDave


The very same spot.



Here is an image from Backpacker.com
This is just of the MWMT. The trail here heads out of frame to the right along the granite bluffs before switchbacking down the northward face of the bluffs directly over Mirror Lake proper.

Once you bottom out near the shore, you cross the outlet of the lake before switchbacking down to Outpost Camp.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 09:04 AM

Fishmonger, I didn't read through the thread, but you nailed it. This is the exact area I was talking about.
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 09:05 AM

Here's a google earth screenshot of the area:



The first 'lost' hiker we met said that he got lost in the hills above Mirror Lake. He said that he was following what he thought was the trail, but it ended up going to a campsite. Just beyond it he said there was a cliff.

From my trip report:
Originally Posted By: HikingGeek.com

Before reaching Lone Pine Lake, we met someone who was descending without summiting. He had struggled up to Trail Camp and spent the afternoon dry heaving. After sleeping for the night, he felt better and had made it up to switchback 75 or 80. At that point he decided to turn around, but his friends continued on. On his way off the mountain, he said he got lost between Trail Camp and Mirror Lake, losing at least an hour.


The 2nd lost hiker was wandering around the hills to the South East of Outpost. If you're standing in camp and looking at the waterfall, he was to the far left.

Originally Posted By: HikingGeek.com
We reached camp around 5:15 pm. By 7:00 pm we had eaten, repacked our bags for the summit attempt and had prepared for bed. I set an alarm for 1 am. If we slept well, the plan was to eat and leave by 1:30 am, in the hopes of being on Trail Crest to watch the sunrise.
We woke up and got ready as planned. To our surprise, a hiker had lost the trail and was yelling down to us from the hills to the left of the waterfall at Outpost Camp. When he saw our headlamps, he started yelling ‘Please help me, I’ve lost the trail,’ or something along those lines. We told him the the trail was ‘this way’ and to walk towards our headlamps. After about 30 mins, he made it to our camp. He had told us that he had been on the trail for 20 hrs and that he thought his ‘mates’ would be out there looking for him. It wasn’t clear if these were people he started the hike with or not. We made sure he had enough food/water to make it back to Whitney Portal and got him started on the trail down. It was 2:30 by the time we started hiking towards Trail Camp.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 09:10 AM

Although tangential...

Are you really hiking in a group? Many start up together but in a few hours they are separated by miles. This is the meetup.com way of hiking which can lead to what my friends and I call mufu. A few years ago, 30 odd people went of Mt. San Gorgonio and one less came back. Even this person's carpool mate split. This person eventually was found alive, I believe in the Big Falls area.

What has been stated almost all the other posts are good ideas of how to keep groups safely together but this is age of it is all about me. I want what I want when I want...and I want to be on the summit in 12 hours and I don't care if someone in my group can only do it in 16.

The name of the game is trust. Do you trust the people you are going out with to be there for you. If you don't, it is incumbent you find people you do trust or you might as well hike alone.
Posted by: Daves Not Here

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 09:58 AM

From WBTRAVIS 'Are you really hiking in a group? Many start up together but in a few hours they are separated by miles. This is the meetup.com way of hiking which can lead to what my friends and I call mufu. '

Thank you for your unjust generalization that all meet up groups hike this way. I happen to own a meet up hike group. We are 2000 strong and have been hiking 4 years this coming November. In this time we have not left one person behind or had to report one of members missing.

Again from WBTRAVIS 'The name of the game is trust. Do you trust the people you are going out with to be there for you. If you don't, it is incumbent you find people you do trust or you might as well hike alone.'

This is not a game. Hiking in any venue requires knowledge. Knowledge of your limits is the first priority. Second is knowing your surroundings. Third is preparation, having the proper clothing, equipment and supplies you need to reach your destination and to make a safe return.

Members of my group that can't or don't want to follow these simple guidelines are not allowed to participate in our events.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 11:06 AM


The capability of a party is never greater than its weakest participant.

George Ingle Finch
George W Rodway, ed
George Ingle Finch’s The Struggle for Everest, p 180
Posted by: 2Old4This

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 11:31 AM

@wbtravis

My point as well. The missing hiker may have thought he was hiking in a group, but it was a solo hike for him. By leaving him behind, his companions took away the assistance and safety that a group should provide. If anything his hike became more dangerous than a typical solo attempt. At least if you are planning a solo attempt, you are prepared for it. At least for me, I prepare differently for a group hike, both mentally and how I pack. The big lesson for me, is if you are hiking in a group stay in a group.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 02:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Akichow
In July, in the high snow year, a friend and I made that error and stayed right, going down a gentle slab chute rather than staying on the partially snow- covered trail above Mirror Lake. We figured out our error quickly enough, but didn't backtrack -- it was morning and we had both good weather and good light. Instead, we figured out a safe way down that required a creek crossing and dropped us below Mirror Lake just above the switchbacks leading to Outpost. My friend, who was leading, was initially headed for the cliffs above Outpost. Having been on the trail before, and consulting topo, I warned her off and we turned left/north before the cliffs to drop down to the creek (there is one safe place to do this). Pretty sure we hooked up with a shortcut/section of the old trail during this detour.



I believe I recall that trip, Karin - 2011? Didn't we share a brew or two at the Portal just prior? And, yes, that was one of the years I got off-track on those slabs as well. We backtracked, however. You were already adventurous!
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 03:31 PM

Bottom line we should always have that "what if..." mindset for every possible situation in order to use proper judgement. But this is not about a lecture.

My main concern is that they find this man very soon...hopefully unharmed. My thoughts are with him, his family, and the group he went up there with.

This is a horrible thing to happen and it can happen to anyone if someone lets down their judgement for one millisecond.

Any current updates?
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 03:44 PM

Originally Posted By: 2Old4This

The big lesson for me, is if you are hiking in a group stay in a group.


I wholeheartedly agree.
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:02 PM

I've been checking this thread every couple of hours hoping that Mr. Likely has been found alive and well. I can't imagine what his friends and family are going through.



Originally Posted By: Snacking Bear
I wholeheartedly agree.


I tend to agree too, with a caveat. On most of my hikes, I like to spend some time by myself. Mt. Whitney is different though - being able to keep an eye of friends is more important than 'alone time,' but on my monthly training hikes, I tend to separate myself from the group, even it is just a brief period of time.

I wonder if Mr. Likely is similar and if it is part of the reason why he was left alone?
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:12 PM

Originally Posted By: 63ChevyII.com
Here's a google earth screenshot of the area:


That's a great visual, Chevy. The area Akichow and I are commenting on is not quite halfway up the slope. If you're descending, you can see that you're hiking in pretty much a straight line for a while, then you have two sharp lefts clustered in the slabs, one a classic hairpin. Miss one of those and things can get dicey pretty quickly. Add in possible darkness, exhaustion, confusion and/or AMS, and it's not that hard for someone to walk right off the edge. Wouldn't be the first time.

What is mystifying to me is that it's now been 4 full days and no results reported from the search. The mountain traffic is summerishly steady and it's only 2 miles from TC to OC. The only other area I can think of in that stretch that might present a danger where someone could disappear - at least reasonably close to the trail - would be the ledges above Consultation Lake. Plenty of opportunity there, but that would take some pretty deliberate off-trail effort.

Wish we had a better idea of his mental and physical state, and what supplies he had with him, but we just don't know because, as has been pointed out repeatedly, he was alone when he probably shouldn't have been. I keep thinking of the "I Shouldn't Be Alive" episode where a solo backpacker in the Sierra wandered off-trail and fell onto a ledge, where he survived for a number of days before being rescued. We can only hope this guy is as lucky.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
The only other area I can think of in that stretch that might present a danger where someone could disappear - at least reasonably close to the trail - would be the ledges above Consultation Lake. Plenty of opportunity there, but that would take some pretty deliberate off-trail effort.lucky.


I've also thought as much.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:25 PM

You would think dogs (if being used) might have found him by now. This brings up (the long shot) that he actually made it down unnoticed and kept going.

I am sorry about this situation, but after this much time that possibility seems like the most likely (only?) good scenario. Injury, illness, and after 4 days dehydration are taking their toll.
Posted by: Joe the Hiker

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:25 PM

The fact that he was supposed to come back to outpost camp and that his friends were waiting for him there and I unknowingly was sleeping at outpost that night really shakes me up to think about it.

I knew it was getting below freezing the nights I was there, and that there were some strong winds, but this article says in some spots winds have reached 60mph and temps have gone down into the teens...
[url=http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-search-for-mt-whitney-update-20140618-story.html][/url]

My prayers go out to him, his family, and all those searching for him.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:45 PM

Harvey, I read earlier today that CLMRG has also been involved in the search since the 16th. That's three SAR orgs working together with, apparently, no results. And you would think dogs were in the equation by at least day two. Assuming Mr. Likely only had the usual dayhike suspects in his pack, I have to agree that a good outcome is getting pretty remote - especially with the weather conditions that I've been reading about. Inyo, Mono and China Lake know this area extremely well. Four days seems like an eternity for a search along roughly 2 miles of trail environs with 3 highly capable outfits.

OK, after Steve's update below, make that a boatload of SAR units. No lack of effort here. I really don't like hearing "shorts" and "small backpack", however.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 04:47 PM

The Inyo County Sheriff's Office website is posting daily updates here:
Media & Press Releases
  June 16,2014
  June 17, 2014
  June 18, 2014
  June 19, 2014


Today's:
Quote:
June 18, 2014
Contact: Carma Roper, PIO
(760) 878-0395

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Whitney SAR – John Likely, UPDATE

Since the afternoon of Sunday June 15th, 2014 search teams have scoured the rugged backcountry terrain in the Mt. Whitney area looking for missing hiker John Likely, a 60-year old man from Dumont, NJ. At least 70 Search and Rescue team members from throughout the state of California have been assisting. The Sierra crest and surrounding areas have been flown and analyzed by aerial reconnaissance experts. Today, strong winds coupled with the Shirley Fire that is west of Lake Isabella, CA have created some visibility issues for aerial support.

"We are still treating this mission as a rescue versus a recovery," stated Inyo County Assistant Search and Rescue Coordinator Brian Hohenstein. "The High Sierra backcountry presents search teams with significant challenges, but we are fortunate to have Search and Rescue support from experts throughout the State."

According to information received, John Likely was last seen near the cable rails on the 99-switchback section of the decent from Mt. Whitney. Likely is reported to be wearing a red San Francisco 49ers ball cap, a black jacket, dark colored shorts and a small backpack, he has gray hair and no facial hair.

Support for today's search is provided by Inyo Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Antelope Valley Search and Rescue, Marin County Search and Rescue, Contra Costa County Search and Rescue, Monterey County Search and Rescue, San Mateo County Search and Rescue, Orange County Search and Rescue, and San Diego County Search and Rescue. Air support today is provided by Sequoia-Kings National Park, and Army National Guard out of Stockton, CA.

The Sheriff's Office is asking for any information from hikers who may have seen John Likely. Please call Sheriff's Dispatch at 760-878-0383 if you have any information that could assist in this search.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 06:20 PM

Nearly 4 full days, with 70 pairs of boots on the ground and at least one chopper in the air. If memory serves, that's lot more resources, over twice as much time, with a lot better beta than in the Shyam Das case two years ago.*

Its making me think again about how comfortable and familiar I have grown to feel about this piece of landscape. I haven't done the math, but the area of highest probability here can't be more than a very few square miles: Trail Camp to Bighorn Park -2.5 miles? - and what, a half mile either side of the trail?

Of course, the lower probability areas are a lot bigger: the whole Lone Pine Creek drainage, at least. Its possible to miss Bighorn park, I guess, descending from Trail Camp, and I suppose its possible to disappear between the cables and TC; there are a lot of possibilities, but its also apparent there there are a lot of places to get hidden in this narrow, well traveled canyon. Here's hoping that someone comes upon the right one soon.

* Before going missing, Das was last seen at Trail Camp and was only considered missing when he didn't show at the Portal. He was found after about 36 hours of intensive search.
Posted by: ocmomo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 07:42 PM

I've only ever read here, and never posted before. I came on today to get the details, and the latest news on the missing hiker. Of course his safety is the highest concern. I'm compelled, though, to post my personal reaction to what I'm hearing about the circumstances.

About a year ago I was to summit Whitney. A group of us trained together to do so. The day before we were to head out, from discussion we had, I came to realize I could not trust my safety to the others. I told myself that night, under an amazing sky at the portal, that nothing was more important than getting back to my family, that I could only depend on myself. That changed the hike for me. (Kind of as some of you said how you prepare differently, even mentally, for a solo versus a group hike.)

The next day we made it up to Trail Camp to spend the night as planned. Through converging circumstances I made the decision to forgo attempting the summit the next day. I never looked back. Was I disappointed, for sure. But I enjoyed a blissful morning the next day, and an almost exuberant descent. Overall I had an excellent experience - learned a ton - LOVED the scenery, and never doubted my decision. Sadly, the report of this gentleman missing has me feeling even further vindicated.

My best wishes to al involved. Still expecting a good outcome.
Posted by: Akichow

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 08:16 PM

Bulldog, I am pretty sure we were on the old trail for part of this. Even found some very nice stealth campsites that I suspect Bob R. and some others use. We were ready to backtrack if it didn't turn out right, though. And like I said, it was morning (since we were coming down from Trail Camp after spending the night there) and I had topo.

And yes, that's the trip where we did meet at the Portal!!!
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 08:20 PM

Bulldog, the year the 3 Angels and the Chinaman got lost I am fairly certain the Chinaman headed towards Consultation Lake when he got on the lower section of the switchbacks above Trail camp. There was snow everywhere. I remember the Chinaman not coming all the way down the switchbacks, instead he started traversing across the mountain towards Consultation Lake on the backside of Trail camp. Does this description of the area make any sense to you. I was thinking you could be right, that's where he could be. The last time his friends saw him he was on the switchbacks so it makes sense. I want someone to find him. When I headed to my cozy warm bed last night I thought of him all alone out there somewhere.
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 08:36 PM

ocmomo,

You followed what you gut told you and you kept the love of your family in your heart. Good for you, I believe you did the right thing. Besides, maybe some day in the future your gut will tell you to finish your journey to the summit and the mountain will be waiting for you. I may be a wishful thinker but I still believe this missing hiker could still be alive. He looks like a strong, healthy guy who can hold on for a while.
Posted by: Ken

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/18/14 11:24 PM

Just to show how much more complicated this could be:

the last report is by his friends seeing him near the cables from Trail Camp. That is a long way, even with binoculars. People often wear clothing that, at a distance, looks the same.
We are depending here upon people who just came down from 14,000+ feet, and may still be affected by oxygen deprivation....which is a true description of their physiologic state.

In this paper, it is pointed out that red visual threshold is much more effected than blue. And personally, I think everyone's clothing looks black at 1/2 mile:

http://www.iovs.org/content/10/5/323.full.pdf

I haven't heard of any "lost hikers" this year down in the Crabtree area (hopefully due to the new signs), but it is certainly in the mix at this point.

I can't fathom his being in the 2.5 mile discussed, with so many experts searching the area.

On the other side of Wotan's throne?

By the way, the hypoxia issue should be taken into account when judging the decisions of his fellow hikers.
Posted by: wagga

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 12:16 AM

Originally Posted By: ocmomo
I've only ever read here, and never posted before.

Welcome aboard.

Remember that not summiting is an excellent excuse to come back to this incredible mountain.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 03:50 AM

Originally Posted By: Ken
I can't fathom his being in the 2.5 mile discussed, with so many experts searching the area.


Agreed, Ken. I would expect the entire trail is in play by now, which would expand the possibilities considerably, especially along the crest. Glassing the switchbacks from TC and positively identifying a lone hiker seems optimistic unless you're using a set of very high-quality binocs, which are typically pretty heavy and not often a candidate for a summit pack. You would almost have to assume a lightweight pair of lower magnification glasses. If that was how he was ostensibly last spotted near the cables, I wouldn't put much faith in it. That section of the switchbacks is not easily seen from Trail Camp.

I once spent an hour kicked back by the pond at TC doing exactly this with a set of 7X35 binocs, watching for the rest of my party to descend the switchbacks. I never was able to positively pick them out till they were in the vicinity of the spring, and that was with the benefit of two-way radios.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 05:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Ken
Just to show how much more complicated this could be:

the last report is by his friends seeing him near the cables from Trail Camp. That is a long way, even with binoculars. People often wear clothing that, at a distance, looks the same.
We are depending here upon people who just came down from 14,000+ feet, and may still be affected by oxygen deprivation....which is a true description of their physiologic state.

In this paper, it is pointed out that red visual threshold is much more effected than blue. And personally, I think everyone's clothing looks black at 1/2 mile:

http://www.iovs.org/content/10/5/323.full.pdf


Ken is absolutely right about the possibility of miss-identification of the color of clothing.

Sorry to take off on a physiological journey here, but we are all waiting for news.

Here goes: The FAA suggests (not requires) that general aviation (non-pressurized) aircraft pilots use O2 at night above 5,000 ft (yes, only 5,000) because the retina begins to lose some color vision and depth perception. On a personal note: I was once at an 18,000 ft camp on the Mera Glacier, playing cards in the tent. One of the guys suddenly blurted out, "Hey, there are no red cards!" Indeed, everything looked a shade of gray. None of us had noticed this, even myself who knew about it. Ken's point is that lower oxygen pressure of altitude affects brains and perception in many ways, both the lost hiker, and his presumably normal group. This is not to be critical, it is what it is.
Posted by: wazzu

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 09:05 AM

The update this morning from Inyo County Sheriff has a little bit more of the group background

"...Likely and
his two friends have hiked as a group for approximately 30-years, and as a group have summited Mt. Whitney five times
throughout the years."

And more details on the search:
"...Sequoia-Kings National Park has provided ground operations to search the area between Trail Crest and the
Crab Tree Ranger Station
. California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) has also joined the search and will be bringing in
specialized search dogs to assist in the operation."

Sure hope they find him today.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 09:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Daves Not Here
From WBTRAVIS 'Are you really hiking in a group? Many start up together but in a few hours they are separated by miles. This is the meetup.com way of hiking which can lead to what my friends and I call mufu. '

Thank you for your unjust generalization that all meet up groups hike this way. I happen to own a meet up hike group. We are 2000 strong and have been hiking 4 years this coming November. In this time we have not left one person behind or had to report one of members missing.

Again from WBTRAVIS 'The name of the game is trust. Do you trust the people you are going out with to be there for you. If you don't, it is incumbent you find people you do trust or you might as well hike alone.'

This is not a game. Hiking in any venue requires knowledge. Knowledge of your limits is the first priority. Second is knowing your surroundings. Third is preparation, having the proper clothing, equipment and supplies you need to reach your destination and to make a safe return.

Members of my group that can't or don't want to follow these simple guidelines are not allowed to participate in our events.


Dave, where did I say all? Nice strawman built then destroyed. It is not unjust. I have hiked many meetup groups hike spread over many years and I have seen them while volunteering in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Your sample is your group while I have sampled many. You know like the fast group that went up to Grinnell last winter and left someone well behind...he complained to me when we met up on the trail near Poopout Hill. Like a south Riverside County group that was spread out by at least 2 miles last weekend...that not a group, that is hiking as individuals. I could go on but I do not want bore everyone. Maybe you should talk to some local SAR volunteers about their problems with meetup hiking groups...I know I have, that is where I first heard the term mufu.

You don't like name of the game is trust, eh. Then you name all that things that make people trustworthy.

As meetup organizer, I screen people but you are counting on them to be honest. Over the years, I have found you end up with some whose skills are not what they say they are and they do not have the required gear you requested they carry. When you discover that 3-miles up a cross country ridge route, what do you do? Send them packing? No, you slow things down and make the best of it for everyone involve...then you do not allow them on your hikes.

You are responsible, many in meetup are not.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 09:51 AM

Wazzu,

This changes my thought process on this...to there was an accident or an accident because of health episode somewhere along the trail rather and a walk off into area a noob might.

I lose the trail between Trailside Meadow and Mirror Lake most times up but after being up their more than few times, I only lose it by a few steps rather than wander around in search of a trail.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 11:22 AM

Harvey and Bulldog make very good points about long distance and perceptions at altitude. I did not now about the red thing. Its possible that the hikers did not see their friend at the cables, but I would tend to discount that analysis by a couple of factors. First if the red loss phenomenon were at play, it seems more likely that the observation would have been something like: hey, there's a guy who looks like John, but he's not wearing a red cap". Second, it was this groups 6th time on the mountain, making a wrong turn at the JMT junction pretty unlikely. A lot of coincidences would have to conspire to result in a bad ID.

On the other hand, I assume that last Saturday was a typically busy day, with the trail clear of snow, with how many permits out? Yet apparently no one, not one, has reported meeting this guy anywhere on the trail.

However this turns out, it is a pretty strange case.
Posted by: Marle

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 11:37 AM

Has SAR mentioned where there was a firm last visual contact between this hiker and his partners?

I'm getting conflicting information about where they were last together, TrailCrest or below?
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 11:38 AM

One thing none of the reports say is what time he was on the summit, and what time the others in his party (believe they) last saw him.

I am wondering if they could make a guess where he was when darkness fell.

I would hope by now Inyo has contacted every permit holder who was on the trail Saturday. Out of 200+ hikers, it would seem like some would remember seeing him. (edit: just talked to Inyo N.F. and Sheriff Dispatch. They have not been in contact.)

I wonder if the others in the party were carrying a camera, might have pictures of him as well as their group. Publishing them might give other hikers a reference, too.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 11:43 AM

Originally Posted By: saltydog
Yet apparently no one, not one, has reported meeting this guy anywhere on the trail.
However this turns out, it is a pretty strange case.


Originally Posted By: wbtravis
This changes my thought process on this...to there was an accident or an accident because of health episode somewhere along the trail rather and a walk off into area a noob might.


I think they may need to check the West Face of Whitney/Needles.

If he wandered off, it is most likely going to be down the JMT cutoff (whether he did so out of inexperience or because he perhaps needed to get to lower altitude for a health episode). Or perhaps one of the easternmost switchbacks (below Whitney Pass and high above Consultation Lake).

Steve also makes a great point about where he might have been during sundown.

Is it known whether or not the group had stayed on the Switchbacks on the way up? Had they considered using the chute? Maybe he considered opting for a speedy glissade down the chute in lieu of the switchbacks?
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 11:48 AM

Salty we are just throwing out any idea, but something simple is likely.

I have come down from Whitney seeing big Consolation lake more impressive than TrailCamp lake. You ramble over there over small boulders, or on small trails near its outlet... I wonder. And how about the west side phenomenon where people are in the going down mode, get to the JMT junction, fail to go up to Trailcrest, and instead just keep going down. I don't remember despite mult times. , but perhaps there is such a similar less obvious place on the east side. You might think there could be enough SAR stats over the years to suspect such an area. Anyone know?

This is a very private event that we are all participating in here in a public way. It is not just prurient, but for the education of us all. There but by the Grace....
Posted by: Marle

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 11:49 AM

From the very first SAR posting, the party was together at the summit (is this confirmed?) and then there is no clear confirmation that he went down the Whitney trail rather than JMT.

Just my speculation, but it sounds as if the party split up before Trail Crest and they did not confirm he took the correct trail.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 03:58 PM

Harvey: I am sure you are right, that it will turn out to be some very simple mistake or accident, but I am betting that it will also be something very quirky or unlikely. the JMT junction sign was replaced last year, pointing all the arrows in the correct directions, and John has summited six times now over the past 30 years, so a misdirection at that point seems improbable. The Consultation Lake diversion is also possible, but the outlet stream goes right to Outpost Camp and the access trail goes back the the MWMT. I can't think of any other search even over the whole length of the trail that has gone on this long.
Posted by: Ken

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 04:16 PM

Originally Posted By: saltydog
Harvey: I am sure you are right, that it will turn out to be some very simple mistake or accident, but I am betting that it will also be something very quirky or unlikely. the JMT junction sign was replaced last year, pointing all the arrows in the correct directions, and John has summited six times now over the past 30 years, so a misdirection at that point seems improbable. The Consultation Lake diversion is also possible, but the outlet stream goes right to Outpost Camp and the access trail goes back the the MWMT. I can't think of any other search even over the whole length of the trail that has gone on this long.


People rarely hike together for 30 year if not married, unless they have similar hiking speeds and styles. So this fellow was definitely way behind his friends GOING DOWNHILL. There must be a reason. I keep going back to the adage "if you are ill at altitude, it is altitude illness until proven othewise". I don't think people really appreciate the effect of removing oxygen from the brain, in terms of brain function. He may not have seen the sign, or even the junction. He may have been following the right side of the trail. Beck Weathers told me of doing something like that when his vision started failing.

He's got to be SOMEWHERE. But I find it hard to believe it is in the 2-1/2 mile section.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 04:27 PM

Update from The Sierra Wave today:

The Sierra Wave

Chiefly interesting is this quote, "'We have followed every lead, back-tracked the hiking route and the surrounding terrain, posted flyers, interviewed hikers, and still nothing. My experience in search and rescue leads me to remain confident that the skills and expertise of the search and rescue members will result in the location of Likely. But this search is leaving even the seasoned experts scratching their heads.' ”
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 04:50 PM

If we combine Peters reminder about easy trail junctions and Kens reminder about brain being out if gear because of altitude or illness, then our speculations about his location become even more cloudy. I was last on the east side in 2012, robotically descended without illness, etc , but in retrospect know that I could have detoured in several places. A group I led in 2011 found several of those spots as well, but they were newbies and had an excuse
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 04:50 PM

I have no personal experience with meet-up hiking - I generally prefer to go solo or with a small group of people I know and trust - but I had an experience a few years ago in Yosemite on Mt. Dana that blew my mind. My family and I were about halfway up and took what was planned to be a short break. A few minutes later a stream of hikers began to go by - literally dozens. Our break went much longer than planned because there was really no way to jump back on the trail without literally merging.

We watched this in growing fascination and finally saw an opportunity to get on the trail after maybe 60 folks had gone by. We discovered they were a meet-up group out of SoCal and were training for - you guessed it - Mt. Whitney. On the descent we were ahead of this main group and were still running into a people on ascent who asked if we had seen a group of meet-up hikers along the way. These folks were easily 3 hours behind that first main group, and clearly struggling. I never did see anyone who I could identify as a sweep.

I remember looking at my wife and we said the same thing simultaneously - "Like herding cats."
Posted by: Daves Not Here

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 08:27 PM

I just received a text from my hiking partner. She runs with a very large circle of various search and rescue personnel. She said she just heard from one of them that John has probably been found and his condition is unknown. She told me she will get more details in a few hours.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 10:27 PM

"Probably" is an important term in SAR context. Daves, can you stay with this one for a little while tonight and let us know more?
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 10:31 PM

Please keep in mind, folks, that family members of the missing always read the forums.

Please do not post private information until it has been cleared for release, as this has caused heartache on other forums in the past.
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 10:44 PM

Bee,

Your message was understood.

Happy to hear there is a possibility that Likely was found.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 10:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Bee
Please keep in mind, folks, that family members of the missing always read the forums.

Please do not post private information until it has been cleared for release, as this has caused heartache on other forums in the past.


Thanks for the reminder, Bee. Family reading this should be assured that we are paying attention and that we care.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/19/14 10:48 PM

In the past, the feedback has been positive from families, as it really touches them that the hiking family at large is really rooting for them.
Posted by: Daves Not Here

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 05:25 AM

I agree with you Salty. It's 5am and I am waiting to hear from my friend. I will post anything I hear asap.
Posted by: Sara Keenan

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:04 AM

Thank you! I was logging on and checking for an update on John through the night. I continue to pray for him and his family that he just got off trail and has managed to keep himself warm enough and hydrated. That's the best case scenario and that's what I'm holding on to.
Posted by: Marle

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:14 AM

Me too, Sarah

This man is an experienced hiker with 5 previous Whitney summits under his belt.

Praying for the best.
Posted by: SanGorgonioHiker

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:31 AM

http://www.inyocounty.us/so/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Whitney-SAR-Likely_update_June20.pdf

Prayers for him and his family.
Posted by: wazzu

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:33 AM

There is an update on the Inyo Sheriff site. It is not good news.

"Early in the evening of June 19th, during an aerial reconnaissance mission above Mirror Lake west of
Outpost Camp, search crews located what is believed to be the remains of missing hiker John Likely in an
extremely steep chute. The recovery is technical, and requires specialized equipment and search and rescue
expertise."

Condolences to the family and friends of John Likely.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:40 AM

Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
I have no personal experience with meet-up hiking - I generally prefer to go solo or with a small group of people I know and trust - but I had an experience a few years ago in Yosemite on Mt. Dana that blew my mind. My family and I were about halfway up and took what was planned to be a short break. A few minutes later a stream of hikers began to go by - literally dozens. Our break went much longer than planned because there was really no way to jump back on the trail without literally merging.

We watched this in growing fascination and finally saw an opportunity to get on the trail after maybe 60 folks had gone by. We discovered they were a meet-up group out of SoCal and were training for - you guessed it - Mt. Whitney. On the descent we were ahead of this main group and were still running into a people on ascent who asked if we had seen a group of meet-up hikers along the way. These folks were easily 3 hours behind that first main group, and clearly struggling. I never did see anyone who I could identify as a sweep.

I remember looking at my wife and we said the same thing simultaneously - "Like herding cats."


This is not unusual with the meetup or the Sierra Club in SoCal. They regularly pull multiple day hike permits for San Gorgonio Wilderness day hikes. I see it daily with my meetup notifications, in Sierra Club postings and out on the trails. I've heard all the justifications for it. The bottom line is your group is not supposed to exceed a dozen.

Saturday, one group had 2 permits of twelve, the lost hiker incident I pointed out on the Vivian Creek Trail had 3 permits for 36.

Hearding Cat? More like trying lose some.
Posted by: mrshherrera

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:51 AM

Very sad news. Thoughts and prayers to his family and his friends.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:52 AM

Originally Posted By: Ken


People rarely hike together for 30 year if not married, unless they have similar hiking speeds and styles. So this fellow was definitely way behind his friends GOING DOWNHILL. There must be a reason.


We have a semiregular partner who is slow going up but is blazing fast down and does not use safe practices, like stopping a trail junctions for friends to catch up, etc.

It has cost him a few times...going down an avy chute of Baden-Powell and a dip in Lone Pine Creek below Lone Pine Lake. Still he hikes with up. We shamed him for the former and he claims to have changed his ways.

There does always have to be a reason other than wanting to go fast.
Posted by: Marle

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:55 AM

My condolences to his family, friends, and fellow hikers.

I'm so sorry to hear this sad news.
Posted by: Sara Keenan

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:58 AM

I hope his family finds some comfort in knowing he was doing what he loved in a place he loved. Rest in Peace, John Lively.
Posted by: Jammer

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 09:10 AM

Very sad news. Definitely was hoping that the past experience would weigh in his favor. My heart goes out to all his friends and family during a very difficult time.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 09:11 AM

Very sad news. Condolences to John's friends and family. It's always tough when a true backcountry enthusiast doesn't make it home. Rest in peace, John.

If I'm reading the description right, it sounds like the culprit was likely the slabs above Mirror Lake that we've discussed on this thread - eerily close to where Shayam Das went over last year. It may be time for the NFS to consider signage in this area.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 09:16 AM

Missing hiker remains located.

Very sad news. Prayers for his friends and family.

Many thanks to the tireless efforts of SAR, and the various police agencies who have been investigating and searching over dangerous terrain.

Thanks to all for keeping your ears to the ground for updates. Many of the Eastern Sierra online community have been tracking events with concern and prayer over the past days.
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 09:25 AM

Sad closure. Condolences to the family and friends.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 10:10 AM

Requiescat in pace
Posted by: brholler

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 10:15 AM

So very sorry to hear this. I've been following and hoping for rescue - so many caring people out there. It is sad and sobering to hear of his loss. frown
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 10:27 AM

Bulldog,

It's a federal wilderness...what you ask, will take act of God.

I've stood there, looked down those chutes and have taken pictures from that area.

There are a few areas alone this trail that look benign and are not and there are those people think are dangerous and they are not.
Posted by: tollermom

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 10:38 AM

so sad.
Posted by: Chicagocwright

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 11:18 AM

There is a little area of switchbacks just above the Permit Only sign past Lone Pine Lake that I thought could lead to disaster. It is a spot on the way down where the trail is not completely evident and there is a path right that looks like a trail that goes right off the cliff. In the dark I was leading my father and I took a few steps that way before realizing my mistake. I can realize how this type of mistake could happen.

Separately, I think I understand where the accident happened. I believe we actually saw a couple hikers attempting to make their way down the chute during our hike. Deep condolences to the family and hoping the family can find peace.
Posted by: ultramarine

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 12:10 PM

I have been checking back daily in hopes of them finding this man alive. I am saddened to hear of his death. It makes me more aware of the fact to not take this mountain for granted. I will be extra careful on my trip next week and hope everyone will take this as a reminder to be safe out there.
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 01:42 PM

Wazzu,

Seems odd to say thank you for this very sad news but thank you just the same. Mr. Likely has been heavy on a lot of people's minds, most of all his family. I wish his Mt. Whitney hike would have had a happy ending. My prayers go out to his family and fellow hikers.
Posted by: Daves Not Here

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 02:37 PM

My friend and I left Outpost at 9:00 pm Sunday evening heading for a sunrise summit.We stopped at Outpost to add a layer and take a short rest. We did not encounter a sole until Trail Crest Junction at 4:00 am Monday morning. If anyone knows where Mr Likely was found, would you please post it on a map? I don't mean to be disrespectful or morbid, I just need to know. This has been bothering both me and my hike partner all week and we just want to know.
Posted by: tollermom

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 03:27 PM

I am curious as well..if only to make sure I take extra precautions. Already I am telling myself GO LEFT, GO LEFT at the granite slabs when Mirror Lake comes into view!!! People keep telling me the trail is like a freeway, just follow the trail. You can't go wrong. Well, that is evidently not completely correct.
Posted by: Joe the Hiker

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 03:57 PM

Originally Posted By: tollermom
I am curious as well..if only to make sure I take extra precautions. Already I am telling myself GO LEFT, GO LEFT at the granite slabs when Mirror Lake comes into view!!! People keep telling me the trail is like a freeway, just follow the trail. You can't go wrong. Well, that is evidently not completely correct.


There are some spots above Mirror Lake where you might stop, pause and go OH there's the trail and move back onto it. With all respects, I also would be curious to see where he was found. It is somewhat haunting me that I hiked into and slept at outpost camp that Saturday night, and that after taking a day to summit, I spent that Monday morning fishing Mirror Lake.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 04:52 PM

In the interest of future safety, I have asked Inyo SO if they could identify from the GE photo posted above which chute Mr. Likely was found in. I have not asked for the exact location of the remains, just the chute, to relate it to the trail where the dangerous section might be. I'll be glad to share whatever information they may provide. I think knowing the spot could be a fitting reminder.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 04:58 PM

Originally Posted By: tollermom
I am curious as well..if only to make sure I take extra precautions. Already I am telling myself GO LEFT, GO LEFT at the granite slabs when Mirror Lake comes into view!!! People keep telling me the trail is like a freeway, just follow the trail. You can't go wrong. Well, that is evidently not completely correct.


tollermom, it sounds like you're prepping for your first attempt of Whitney? Don't be overly concerned for your own hike due to this tragedy. We'll likely never know the circumstances that led to John's fall, but the Whitney Trail truly is like a freeway over most of the 11 miles. There are areas where a little extra caution is appropriate, but not that many. I think most of us focused on these slabs because of personal experience in losing the trail for a minute while descending. Much of the trail above timberline is granite that has been reworked into steps, staircases, paths and corridors, and is generally easy to follow if you're paying attention - or following the summer conga line.

However, in this section of the slabs above ML the trail can become faint, and does have a few sharp lefts that can be missed (again, descending - ascent is really not tricky). In daylight, no biggie - you realize you're on a slab that seems to be going nowhere (except progressively steeper downward) and you backtrack a bit till you pick the trail up again. In darkness or other limited visibility conditions, it can become more serious. Hypoxic difficulties can complicate the situation as well. Best advice - don't descend in the dark if you can avoid it. But remember, thousands upon thousands of people of all skill levels safely get up and down this mountain each year. Serious accidents are rare for the volume the trail carries - statistically near zero.

Study a Whitney trail map before your trip, carry the appropriate gear, pay attention to the trail, exercise due caution, and enjoy the experience.
Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 06:12 PM

I just heard back from Inyo SO, and they indicate they will get photo to SAR coordinators to try to pinpoint the critical locations for this SAR, with respect to the trail above Mirror. This could help alleviate the danger of this stretch. Check out the Inyo SO FB page. I'll keep the board posted on anything I learn.
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 06:41 PM

I am deeply saddened by the news of Mr. Likely's passing. Although I never met him, I found myself checking this thread every couple of hours. The last two night I actually had trouble falling asleep because I was thinking about him, his family and his fellow hikers.

I have no idea about the politics involved in doing such a thing, but it seems that doing something as simple as lining the trail with rocks in this area would be helpful. Looking at the Google Earth image below, it looks like the area we have been discussing is only a 1/3 to 1/2 mile long.


I realize that the agencies involved are short on funding and man power, but I'm guessing they wouldn't have too much trouble finding volunteers to help. I can think of a half dozen people (including myself) that would be happy to donate some time.
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 06:53 PM

Here's another look at the chutes above Mirror Lake.

Posted by: tollermom

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 07:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Originally Posted By: tollermom
I am curious as well..if only to make sure I take extra precautions. Already I am telling myself GO LEFT, GO LEFT at the granite slabs when Mirror Lake comes into view!!! People keep telling me the trail is like a freeway, just follow the trail. You can't go wrong. Well, that is evidently not completely correct.


tollermom, it sounds like you're prepping for your first attempt of Whitney? Don't be overly concerned for your own hike due to this tragedy.
Study a Whitney trail map before your trip, carry the appropriate gear, pay attention to the trail, exercise due caution, and enjoy the experience.


Yes, I am prepping for a July 18 day hike. Some friends scoff at my preparations but I have read books, read forums, taken notes, talked to past hikers, make a day trip to the portal a couple weeks ago to hike up to Lone Pine lake during daylight hours, even used google earth to 'fly over' the Halfmile maps of the trail. I know this is one mountain to give much respect. The tragedy of Mr Likely punctuated that.
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 07:54 PM

Originally Posted By: tollermom
Yes, I am prepping for a July 18 day hike. Some friends scoff at my preparations but I have read books, read forums, taken notes, talked to past hikers, make a day trip to the portal a couple weeks ago to hike up to Lone Pine lake during daylight hours, even used google earth to 'fly over' the Halfmile maps of the trail. I know this is one mountain to give much respect. The tragedy of Mr Likely punctuated that.


Glad you're not listening to your friends. Whitney is a serious mountain that is often under-estimated because "you can simply walk to the top", without any scrambling or technical climbing. Every so often, though, a tragedy like John's provides a sobering realization that, yes, there can be very real dangers here, regardless of your skill level. Preparation is the majority of the battle to getting up and down safely. The rest is really just paying attention and using common sense.

Assuming you're conditioned, acclimated, and geared up properly, the biggest challenge you'll likely face in mid-July is weather. Expect anything and everything due to potential monsoon conditions that often come that time of year. Last year we were blown off a summit attempt the third week of July by some of the worst weather I've ever seen outside a hurricane or tornado - torrential rain, snow, hail, graupel, high winds, lightning, rockfall galore - it was mucho ugly. But I've also been up in mid-July when conditions were absolutely perfect and wore only stripped convertibles and a base tee on the summit.

This tragedy, as you said, punctuates a potential danger. Watch for those lefts descending to ML and you'll be fine.
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:01 PM

tollermom,

Take one or two space blankets with you and make sur your fellow hikers have space blankets and headlamps and exta batteries. If you're coming down in the dark and feeling unsure about the trail stop immediately, sit down, wrap your space blanket around you and wait for the sun to come out so you can see where you are going. Gloves and a hat are lightweight and will help you stay warm.
Posted by: tollermom

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/20/14 08:25 PM

Originally Posted By: lynn-a-roo
tollermom,

Take one or two space blankets with you .

I have a SOL emergency bivy that packs the size of my fist. It'll be in my daypack along with my down jacket, gloves and beanie.
Posted by: Alpenglow1

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/21/14 07:51 AM

I too have been following this story and hoping for a better outcome. So sad. My condolences go out to Mr. Likely's family and friends and pray that God will comfort them during this tragic time.
Posted by: Hobbes

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/21/14 08:03 AM

Originally Posted By: tollermom
I have a SOL emergency bivy that packs the size of my fist. It'll be in my daypack along with my down jacket, gloves and beanie.


I don't want to derail this thread, but if you take down, take something to keep it dry:
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/37400/From_sun_to_snow_in_5_hours#Post37400

As to the ramps, I've come up from the westside and down the east the last few years, so I haven't had the advantage of recollecting my ascent. As a result, I seem to always lose the trail (for a few moments) around the ramps.

Because I can travel moderate x-c, I tend not to get too worried and simply back-track, but in many ways, the ramps have the potential to be the most dangerous part of the trail.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker - 06/21/14 08:49 AM

Volunteers are always welcome by SAR teams, but with the condition that they receive intensive training with the particular team, and not merely show up during an OP and offer help.

I recall having to turn down offers of help from on-the-spot volunteers, even on Whitney operations, because we did not know them or their training in search and rescue.

So, if you and others want to become SAR volunteers, the first step is to approach a local SAR team, applied for membership, and then attend their regular training sessions and meetings.

It can be a major commitment, involving the sacrifice of personal time, including giving up a lot of one's own recreational hiking when SAR duties demand. But the sacrifices are made up for with the satisfaction of helping others and often saving lives.
Posted by: tollermom

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/21/14 09:04 PM

The family of Mr Likely has posted a thank you to SAR onto the Inyo County Sheriff's Facebook page.
Inyo County Sheriff's Facebook Page
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 01:57 AM

I found a video and pictures posted by Inyo County Sheriffs Office (ICSO)and SAR members.

Here is a video from a Contra Costa SAR (CoCoSAR) member:


There is a curious blue dot on the map at 0:09 in the video. Here's a snagged picture (click for original size):


Here are several pictures posted on the ICSO Facebook page:







Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 07:58 AM

This is some great material, Steve. Do we have a source who could also provide the exact location of the recovery? The blue dot is almost certainly not it. ICSO said they would look into it, but obviously hasn't provided it yet. It would sure tell us all a lot about the hazards and events behind this accident.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 08:35 AM

That big ass tandem rotor is not your average pudknocker traffic helicopter.

Looks like a CH-47 Chinook. It can carry 30-40 people, equipment, dogs, lunch, and more (although maybe not at that altitude). I guess that is what was available at that time.

I can't make out the 309's tail symbol.


Posted by: Cory Freeman

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 08:44 AM

that chinook flew over my house when they were inbound and on their way to bishop airport for refuel. I believe it was the army national guard out of stockton.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 09:48 AM

Originally Posted By: saltydog
This is some great material, Steve. Do we have a source who could also provide the exact location of the recovery? The blue dot is almost certainly not it. ICSO said they would look into it, but obviously hasn't provided it yet. It would sure tell us all a lot about the hazards and events behind this accident.

Also note the time the friends saw him near the cables: 1845. That was pretty late. Darkness was about an hour or more away.

at 1:08 video text says: A short time later, other hikers encountered Likely further down the trail, and later reported Likely appeared fatigued. @1:17 Continuing with him briefly, they told investigators he refused assistance and the hikers continued down ahead of Likely. @1:24 Their's was the last reported sighting of Mr. Likely.

If you match that blue dot with satellite images (Gmap4 link), you can see there is a pretty rugged chute there. But I agree that Likely would have had to traverse a more gentle drainage and get really high to fall into that chute.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 10:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Cory Freeman
that chinook flew over my house when they were inbound and on their way to bishop airport for refuel. I believe it was the army national guard out of stockton.

"aerial support throughout the last five days: California Highway Patrol H-82 out of Apple Valley, China Lake Naval Air Base out of Ridgecrest, Sequoia-Kings, and Army National Guard out of Stockton, California"

story and another Chinook picture in here Inyo register report


Posted by: saltydog

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/28/14 03:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C

Also note the time the friends saw him near the cables: 1845. That was pretty late. Darkness was about an hour or more away.

at 1:08 video text says: A short time later, other hikers encountered Likely further down the trail, and later reported Likely appeared fatigued. @1:17 Continuing with him briefly, they told investigators he refused assistance and the hikers continued down ahead of Likely. @1:24 Their's was the last reported sighting of Mr. Likely.

If you match that blue dot with satellite images (Gmap4 link), you can see there is a pretty rugged chute there. But I agree that Likely would have had to traverse a more gentle drainage and get really high to fall into that chute.


At the apparently slow pace, it could easily have taken him that hour to get to those switchers above Trailside. Making it more probable to miss the trail there and less that he would leave the trail intentionally.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Missing Whitney Hiker: recovered - 06/29/14 09:58 PM

I do not like to remove/delete posts, however, I felt that I needed to in the case of possible unauthorized/misunderstood/potentially damaging information being passed along before it had been confirmed/officially released et al.