Two deaths, one on Mt. Whitney, in Sequoia-Kings National Park

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office press release

At approximately 4:00pm Friday April 21st, Inyo County Sheriff’s Dispatch received notification of a potential fatality on the Mt. Whitney Mountaineer’s Route. According to the reporting party, who was a member of a hiking group that was descending the trail, a male solo hiker passed the group ascending in the last chute near the summit (~13,800 elevation).

Sometime after the hiking group was continuing their descent a backpack tumbled down near them that the hikers recognized as the backpack belonging to the solo hiker. The members of the group called out repeatedly, but there was no response. In order to get enough reception to call into the Sheriff’s Office they hiked down to Iceberg Lake (~12,600 elevation) to dial 911.

Inyo Sheriff started an investigation but it was too dark to begin an aerial search.

CHP H-80 out of Apple Valley responded the morning of Saturday April 22, and located the body around 1:00pm. The body was inside the boundary of Sequoia-Kings National Park, and therefore the recovery was coordinated through Sequoia-Kings.

At approximately 12:30 Saturday April 22nd, Inyo County Sheriff’s Dispatch received notification of an avalanche, with one reported injury, on the lower end of the Mountaineer’s Route (~9,500 elevation). The reporting party did not witness the avalanche, but as he was hiking he noticed the runout zone of the avalanche, and below that there was one injured male hiker believed to be suffering from a broken leg.

Although CHP H-80 was already near Mt. Whitney doing aerial reconnaissance for the fatality, they were unable to assist because they are not hoist certified. Additional aerial support was requested through Inyo County Search and Rescue, and CHP H-70 out of Paso Robles was able to respond.

The avalanche victim, identified as Sung Kim, 64 year old male from Fullerton, CA, was successfully airlifted out and transported to Southern Inyo Hospital for treatment.

Due to historic snowfall in the Sierra we want to remind outdoor enthusiasts that the risk of avalanches is greater than in past years. Additionally, the high snowpack requires experience and technical skills.

Agencies assisting this weekend include: CHP H-80, CHP H-70, Sequoia-Kings, Inyo SAR, Inyo Sheriff.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PRESS RELEASE

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. April 23, 2017 – Two fatalities occurred in Sequoia National Park this weekend, one on Mount Whitney and one in the Kaweah River.

On Friday afternoon, a group of climbers descending the eastern slope of Mount Whitney crossed paths with a solo climber who was heading up the Mountaineer’s Route. Like the commonly used trail to the 14,494-foot peak, this route starts at Whitney Portal, but it is far more challenging. Sometime later, the group observed a backpack fall and realized that the climber they passed may have fallen. As soon as they were able to obtain a cell signal, they called 911, reporting the incident to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office (ICSO).

ICSO started an investigation but it was too dark to begin an aerial search. At first lighton Saturday, they began a helicopter search and spotted the man’s body after about four hours. He had apparently been traversing the north face of Mount Whitney, an area with snow and ice, when he fell. Because this area is in Sequoia National Park, ICSO contacted the National Park Service, which is commencing operations to retrieve the victim on Sunday morning.

The second fatality occurred on Saturday afternoon. A 21-year-old Tulare woman and three friends were alongside the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River a short distance downstream from the Hospital Rock Picnic Area, six miles inside the Sequoia park entrance on Hwy 198. The woman fell into the river and was swept away. Her friends contacted the parks for help and a search and rescue response was initiated.

Farther downstream, another visitor saw the woman in the river and managed to get her out. Wesley Mungin of Hanford, CA, got the victim to shore, administered CPR in an area upstream from Potwisha Campground.

“Although the rivers of the parks are beautiful and picturesque, they are still an extremely dangerous place to recreate. Due to the record level snowpack the rivers with their fast cold water continue to rise.  Please give these environments the respect they deserve for your own personal safety,” said Chris Waldschmidt, U.S. Park Ranger.

The National Park Service was assisted in responding to this incident by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Tulare County Fire Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Exeter Ambulance.

 

 

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One Response to Two deaths, one on Mt. Whitney, in Sequoia-Kings National Park

  1. California14er May 24, 2017 at 10:10 am #

    Careful there, people. There has already been enough grief in the Sierras this year. We don’t need any more.

     

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