This map from the National Park Service shows Mt. Whitney lying just inside the boundary of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Courtesy NPS
A 60-year-old Southern California man fell to his death Sunday afternoon after summiting Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48 states.
According to a press release from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Torrance resident Yukio Kato was on his way back to the Whitney Portal Trailhead from the 14,497-foot summit and was about a mile down the trail at an elevation of about 13,500 feet when he fell an estimated 200 feet off a cliff.
He was with three hiking companions at the time and they notified the Inyo County Sheriff's Department which in turn reported the accident to the national parks.
SEKI dispatched a contract helicopter and park medic to the scene at about 4 p.m., while nearby U.S. Forest Service wilderness rangers walked with Kato's companions back to the trailhead.
With daylight hours waning, recovery of Kato's body was put on hold until Monday, when a mountaineering technical rescue team comprised of four SEKI park rangers were able to safely go in and retrieve the hiker's remains.
The cause of the fall is under investigation, but weather is not considered a factor.