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Missing man on MR -- Recovered
#47077 07/21/16 05:36 PM
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Last edited by Steve C; 07/24/16 11:55 PM. Reason: recovery
Re: Missing man on MR
Bob West #47079 07/22/16 08:49 AM
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Rick F has provided more details on the WPSMB forum. He actually helped three hikers from the missing hiker's party descend to Whitney Portal.

Here's his account.

Quote:
On Tuesday, 7/19, in the afternoon, I along with 3 friends, while headed up to Mt. Russell met 3 people from the missing hiker's group. Two men and a woman. We first saw the three 3 hikers descending the steep terrain below the notch north of Whitney-Russell Pass. They approached us near the south side of Iceberg Lake and asked for directions to the "Parking Lot".

My first impression as we saw them descend the steep slope was that they must be experienced and familiar with area. But as soon as we attempted some conversation we realized that something wasn’t right. There was a significant language barrier that made getting details very challenging. They were Korean and didn’t speak too much English. One of the men explained that English was a second language and he was talkative and able to communicate with us but he told us that he did not know which route they had ascended. He said that they didn’t have a map, were not familiar with the area and relied on faith in their “leader”. He explained that they had left early, about 3:00 a.m. Monday Morning. The talkative one somehow lost his pack on some technical terrain when the “leader” lowered a rope to him to assist him. Somehow after that they had become separated from their “leader” after trying to follow him up some steep technical terrain, they assumed the leader was taking them to Mt. Whitney.

They told us that they huddled together on Monday night trying to stay warm. On Tuesday they met a pair of climbers somewhere west of the Whitney-Russell Ridge. The pair of climbers gave them some water and trail mix. According to the lost trio, the pair of climbers pointed them to the notch in the Whitney-Russell and suggested they exit through the notch, descend the slope to Ice Berg Lake, and try to find their way to the “Parking Lot”.
They told us their car was at the Parking Lot which we were pretty sure had to be Whitney Portal. They wanted to get back and they just wanted directions. We told them we would go with them and help them to navigate the route back down the north fork of Lone Pine Creek. They were proud and reluctant to accept our help but we were persistent.

We had tents at Upper Boy scout Lake. We stopped at our camp to take a break and gather our gear. The woman reacted when she looked northwest, up-canyon of Upper Boy Scout Lake and told us that she recognized that was the way they went up Monday morning.
We had phone signal at Upper Boy Scout so we all made calls. The Korean group told us there were no messages and no answer from attempts to call their leader. One of my friends called the Forest Service Ranger and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department but found that was no report at that time of any missing hikers.

The trio were again reluctant to wait for us to pack up our camp but we explained that we did not want them to go down without our help. We specifically tried to caution them about the Ebersbacher Ledgers. We knew we had just barely enough daylight to descend the ledges prior to nightfall. We gave them more water, hot tea, sandwiches, and cookies. They were very appreciative.

We arrived back at Whitney Portal at about 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night. Their leader was not there. They had phones and thanked us for assisting them. We urged them to call the Rangers and Inyo County Sheriff’s Department to at least report that they had become separated. There was a lot of activity at the Portal as the Badwater Ultra finish-line was set up and the first finishers were arriving. The trio assured us they would be OK and thanked us again for assisting them.

Wednesday Morning we stopped in at the Inter-agency Visitor Center to return a rented Bear Canister. We shared our account of meeting the trio with the Rangers.

One of my friends had exchanged phone numbers with talkative Hiker. On Wednesday my friend called a few times to follow-up on the outcome and find out if they found their leader. They had not. Last night my friend found out from the Hiker and the Inyo County Sheriff’s that the leader was still missing.



Re: Missing man on MR
Steve C #47080 07/22/16 08:55 AM
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Reported by Inyo County Sheriff's Office on Facebook:

Quote:
Friday July 22, 2016 Lee Search UPDATE:

Inyo County Search and Rescue (SAR) is gearing up for another massive multiagency search for missing hiker Bum “John” Lee. Lee has been missing since Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday CHP H-80 out of Apple Valley provided aerial reconnaissance; however Lee was not located. Inyo SAR members were inserted above and below the Mountaineer’s Route on Mt. Whitney yesterday with the assistance of CHP H-80. This morning additional SAR members are arriving to continue the Lee search with an expanded search grid to include the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake area, and Arctic Lakes Basin.

Thursday support was provided by: Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, CalOES, and CHP H-80. Today support includes: Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, CHP H-80, California Air National Guard, and CalOES.

If anyone has any information that may assist in this search please contact Sheriff’s Dispatch as 760-878-0383.

Re: Missing man on MR
Steve C #47104 07/24/16 08:26 PM
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From the Inyo County Sheriff's face-book page:

"FINAL POSTING - Sunday evening update: After five days of an intense multiagency search effort we are all deeply saddened to report that missing hiker John Lee’s body has been located by a helicopter in Sequoia National Park at the base of the southwest slope of Mt. Whitney ~12,500 feet elevation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Lee's family and friends during this very difficult time."

Re: Missing man on MR
Bob West #47114 07/24/16 10:46 PM
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A very sad development. So sorry for his family and hiking friends.

All I can say is Wow! They found his pack on the n-nw side of Whitney, above where he left his friends, and then they have found his body, a mile southwest, at the 12,500' elevation. That is not too far (a few hundred meters) from the JMT (John Muir Trail) where it climbs south and east from Guitar Lake.

It is certainly puzzling how he got there.

Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Steve C #47116 07/24/16 11:26 PM
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Some quotes and pictures from the Inyo County Sheriff's Office facebook page:
Quote:
Thurs, July 21 at 8:04 am
A search is underway for missing man, Bum "John" Lee, a 68-year old man from the Redlands area in California. Lee has been missing since Tuesday afternoon. According to the information received, Lee was attempting the Mountaineer's Route on Mt. Whitney, and was last seen above Iceberg Lake in the chute as he was ascending. CHP H-80 out of Apple Valley provided aerial reconnaissance yesterday; however Lee was not located. This morning 11 SAR members have been inserted above and below the Mountaineer's Route. If anyone has any information that may assist in this search please contact Sheriff's Dispatch as 760-878-0383.


Quote:

Friday (July 22, 2016) afternoon update: At approximately 1:00 this afternoon a backpack was located north of the Mountaineer's Route on a rocky outcropping; the pack was positively identified as John Lee's.
Lee's hiking companions reported that as they were ascending Monday on what they believed was the Mountaineer's Route for a day hike; they became concerned for their safety and spent the night. In the morning the group began to descend, but Mr. Lee wanted to continue on to summit Whitney, and hike out. The hiking companions watched Mr. Lee “hang” his pack on a granite ledge, perhaps to be less cumbersome as he climbed toward the summit. Search crews are continuing their efforts near and around the location of the pack. A photo has been provided for visual context of the backpack location.


Quote:
Saturday afternoon update: Additional information received today from one of the hiking companions indicated that Mr. Lee realized the route taken was difficult and his goal for departing solo Tuesday morning was to find a safe route for the party to descend. Original reports indicated that Mr. Lee wanted to continue to summit Whitney. We are following all leads. Today 38 SAR members as well as air support have actively been searching. All updates will be posted.


Quote:
FINAL POSTING - Sunday evening update (July 24, 2016): After five days of an intense multiagency search effort we are all deeply saddened to report that missing hiker John Lee’s body has been located by a helicopter in Sequoia National Park at the base of the southwest slope of Mt. Whitney ~12,500 feet elevation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Lee's family and friends during this very difficult time.



Quote:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
News Release


For Immediate Release: July 24, 2016
Contact: Dana M. Dierkes
Phone: (559) 565-3131 (office) and (559) 679-2866 (cell)

Missing Hiker's Body Found in Sequoia National Park


Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, CA -- The body of missing hiker John Lee, a 68-year-old male from Mentone, CA, was spotted by helicopter in Sequoia National Park at the base of the southwest slope of Mt. Whitney (approximately 12,500 feet in elevation) on Sunday, July 24, 2016, at approximately 1:35 p.m. The cause of death is under investigation. Lee's remains have been transferred to the Tulare County Coroner's Office.

Approximately 98 people, 2 search dogs, and 4 helicopters helped search for Lee in the Mt. Whitney area of Sequoia National Park today. A large number of agencies, organizations, and volunteer groups assisted with the search, including: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Inyo County Sheriff's Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Yosemite Search and Rescue (helicopter), YODOGs--Friends of Yosemite Search and Rescue (Yosemite National Park's canine team), Marin County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Contra Costa Search and Rescue, San Diego Mountain Rescue Team, California Highway Patrol (CHP H-40—a helicopter), California Air National Guard (helicopter), and Cal OES.

Background:

· Monday, July 18, 2016, at 4 a.m. - Lee and several friends started to hike from Whitney Portal to the top of Mt. Whitney and planned to return to their vehicle at the trailhead by the end of the day. The group intended to follow the Mountaineer's Route. Concerned for their safety, the group stopped and slept near the top of the Whitney-Russell Pass near the Sierra crest—approximately ½-mile from the top of Mt. Whitney.

· Tuesday, July 19, 2016, at 6:00 a.m. - Three of the members of the hiking party stayed behind while Lee continued on. Lee's hiking companions saw his pack "hanging" on a granite ledge. The hiking party waited for Lee for several hours. When Lee did not return, the rest of his group believed they would meet Lee at the car and left the area. They descended with the assistance of several experienced hikers they met along the way. They returned to the Whitney Portal trailhead around 10 p.m.

· Wednesday, July 20, 2016 – The Inyo County Sheriff's Office initiated a search. On Wednesday, CHP H-80 out of Apple Valley provided aerial reconnaissance. Searching was done by aerial reconnaissance only—no ground search teams.

· Thursday, July 21, 2016 - Inyo County Search and Rescue members were flown to search areas above and below the Mountaineer's Route on Mt. Whitney with the assistance of CHP H-80. Inyo County started to search in the area of Whitney-Russell Pass based upon initial information. More search-and-rescue members arrived to continue the search in the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake area, and Arctic Lakes Basin. The Inyo County Sheriff's Office notified Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks about the missing hiker. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks provided aircraft support for Inyo County's search-and-rescue operation. Additional support was provided by: Inyo County Sheriff's Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Cal OES, and CHP H-80.

· Friday, July 22, 2016, at 1 p.m. - On Friday, July 22, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Inyo County Sheriff's Office, and partners continued search efforts in both the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park. A backpack was located north of the Mountaineer's Route on a rocky outcropping. The pack was positively identified as belonging to Lee. Additional search-and-rescue members arrived to expand search efforts in the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake area, and Arctic Lakes Basin. Support includes: Inyo County Sheriff's Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CHP H-80, California Air National Guard, and Cal OES. Search crews continued their efforts near and around the location of the pack.

· Saturday, July 23, 2016 - Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ and Inyo County Sheriff's Office, in cooperation with other partners, continued searching in the vicinity of Mt. Whitney for Lee. Other partners involved in the search include Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Sheriff's Office Mountain Rescue Team, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, California Air National Guard, and Cal OES. A total of 66 staff and volunteers were assigned to search efforts. Additional information received from one of Lee’s hiking companions indicated that Lee realized the route he had taken with his hiking companions was difficult and that he had departed from his hiking party to find a safe route for the party to descend. Previous reports indicated that Lee wanted to continue to summit Mt. Whitney.

—NPS—

Dana M. Dierkes
Public Affairs Specialist / Branch Chief, Communications and Outreach
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Steve C #47117 07/25/16 12:22 AM
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Pictures: (click on each for full-size view)
Note the three SAR crew members in this picture


SAR crew



Backpack spotted



Backpack coordinates









SAR crew member


Re: Missing man on MR
Steve C #47129 07/25/16 09:25 AM
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Incredibly puzzling. The three surviving members didn't make the summit did they? It seems like the missing hiker, would have gotten where he was by descending from the summit.

But one report said that he separated to help his crew find a descent route...

Maybe the SW slope's lower-angle were less intimidating than trying to re-descend the MR? Maybe he went up the N. Face (considering his pack was discovered N. of the MR proper.

Note: I can't see the pix you posted until I get to my laptop at home, that might help clarify some of the psoitioning.


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Steve C #47135 07/25/16 01:28 PM
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So apparently this group went over the ridge above Upper Boy Scout, and was coming back over Whitney-Russell when the "leader" decided to continue up the west side of the ridge. He left his pack below and to the north of the Notch, and continued either over or around to the SW slope, and met his end a little above the JMT between Guitar and the west side switchers. Am I reading this right?

In any event, lots of lessons here


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
saltydog #47136 07/25/16 03:30 PM
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Actually they spent an unplanned first night near Whitney-Russell Pass, this apparently caused by their continuing west past Upper Boy Scout Lk, instead of turning south before reaching the lake.

Next morning, instead of retreating, they tried heading up the north side of Whitney, which is pretty treacherous. The group could go no furthere, but the leader then tried (and apparently succeeded) to continue up.

The rest of the group was able to get back down to the W-R pass, take the use trail that heads between Iceberg Lk and Mt Russell (it traverses the area just west of Whitney-Russell), and they were able to descend to Iceberg, where other hikers led them down to Whitney Portal.

Obviously the turnaround time guidelines were ignored, but eventually the rest of the group did indeed turnaround and were safe.

Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Steve C #47137 07/25/16 04:38 PM
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Whitney-Russel is above Iceberg, isn't it? Or is one the COl and the other the Pass? I remember you came over the one above Iceberg a couple of years ago, and I thought that was Whitney Russell. in any event, yes they kept going above UBS and came back above Iceberg, while Lee went on who knows how, no pack, to the other side of the mountain.


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Steve C #47138 07/25/16 07:06 PM
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Local media report:

http://www.sierrawave.net/missing-hiker-mentone-found-deceased/

There are a number of lessons to be learned.

Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Bob West #47140 07/26/16 04:53 AM
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Originally Posted By: Bob West
There are a number of lessons to be learned.


The simple algorithm:

1) Members never get ahead of the Leader, or behind the designated Sweep.

2) Leader knows the terrain and is willing to backtrack in case of uncertainty. Short-range radio between leader & sweep is massively helpful.

3) Stop & get group together at all trail junctions.

Adherence to this simple set of rules will result in the entire group arriving successfully at the planned exit - or at least S&R finding all members in the same place.

There is an exception: If a member is broken, then the leader is responsible for sending the best choice on the chopper-run.

That is all.


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
saltydog #47141 07/26/16 10:56 AM
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Yeah, it's a tough designation. The west side of the W/R Pass is broad, sandy, and gentle. The east side is divided up between ridges and chutes leading to Iceberg, or the upper UBSL drainage.

When I was up there last July I noted 4 *prominent cols splitting the pass. I will number them starting from the northernmost to the southernmost:

#1: The northernmost is Sakai Col (not very prominent), which is a notch leading to a treacherous balcony over a cliff that joins with the Rockwell Variation up Mt. Russell (the upper reaches of the UBSL drainage). If the group said they recognized going up UBSL on Monday, then spent Monday night at the Pass, ending up coming down to Iceberg, I think that they would have had to go over Sakai Col (my best guess), or they had to have traversed Russell's summit and descended the S. Face (unlikely).

#2: An unnamed col I will call Deadman's Drop. A small sharp col that marks the top of unbroken cliffs dropping into the same upper UBSL drainage. Class 5. To me it is unlikely that they used this col.

#3: Iceberg Col #1. Not bad but not recommended for an expedient descent to Iceberg. You can reach Iceberg from this col, but you have to work your way down some sandy chutes and benches, and then circumnavigate the entire lake to reach the south end that the MR passes.

#4: Iceberg Col #2: The Road More Traveled. To my memory this is the notch closest to Whitney's N. Face. This has a well-worn use path visible from Iceberg.

I think cols 3&4 are the likely route the missing hikers used to descend to Iceberg. I think it unlikely that they remembered going up the UBSL drainage, because the route over Sakai looks really intimidating while remaining class 3.

Perhaps they went up over the W/R pass by avenue of col #3 or #4, and then they descended the counterpart.

Last edited by Snacking Bear; 07/26/16 10:57 AM.

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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Snacking Bear #47172 07/30/16 06:49 PM
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On the way down, one of the party was quoted as indicating that they went straight to the ridge from Upper Boy Scout, not Iceberg.


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
saltydog #47179 08/01/16 08:08 AM
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I know. Having been up that way a number or times, I doubt their claims as the route over Sakai Col is both, unapparent, and perched over a notable cliff.

They were already lost, and not necessarily completely reliable in their ability to navigate or remember landmarks.

I'm not saying that they are definitely wrong, but I think there is reason to doubt their recollection (at least based on the reports we've received).


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Snacking Bear #47189 08/01/16 07:59 PM
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Have they shared a cause of death?
Have they shared coordinates of a spot where he was found?

Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Yury #47190 08/02/16 01:02 AM
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Yury, I've not seen a cause of death. But they did say he was found on the southwest slope of Whitney about 12,500 elevation.

So that puts it about here.

Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Steve C #47193 08/02/16 10:47 AM
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I'd guess exposure.

Maybe he was trying to get back on trail without having to climb up.


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Re: Missing man on MR--Recovered
Snacking Bear #47195 08/02/16 11:20 AM
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He might have fallen down one of those steep gulleys on the west side of Whitney. Remember, he was without a pack, so no water, etc etc. My location is a guess based on their saying "southwest slope" and 12,500'.

He was only a quarter mile from the JMT!!

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