Missing hiker from Mentone found deceased

Press release

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.

LeePhoto2016-07-24

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.

 

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2 Responses to Missing hiker from Mentone found deceased

  1. Christine Speed July 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    I am a hiker and read search and rescue reports to learn about the climbing mistakes of others in order to learn from them. Given how tragic such events are, one of the most positive things any reporter can do is to carefully describe the specific circumstances and dynamics of the group and the decisions they took in order to provide the most insight into the exact nature of the failure. I imagine careful interviews of the surviving party may be difficult to obtain. But every detail a reporter can gather and include in his/her article would literally be a public service—and, in it’s own way, represent the last positive contribution to the surviving world by the deceased.

     
    • Russ Monroe July 27, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      Perhaps Christine, you should write the book. You are very correct; survivor interviews are a difficult thing to acquire. I fed the survivors of a lightning strike on the Mt Whitney cabin a couple of decades ago. I think that the stories from that day could very possibly save lives. I also know that those same words could discourage many people. Your quest for knowledge is commendable. I believe that the number two cause of death in the Sierra back-country is ignorance, so the more information passed along the better. Unfortunately, it has been proven to me repeatedly that the number one cause of death in the back-country is arrogance and that is a lot harder to effect.

       

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