One of several helicopters assisting in the now-five-day search of the Mt. Whitney area for 60-year-old John Likely of New Jersey. The hiker was last seen Saturday as he descended the peak after a successful summit bid.
Photo courtesy Inyo County Sheriffâ€™s Department
With the search for missing hiker John Likely entering its fourth day Wednesday, authorities were holding out hope of finding the 60-year-old New Jersey man alive.
Inyo County Search and Rescue team members were joined in their efforts to find the hiker by at least 70 other SAR members from across the state.
â€śWe are still treating this mission as a rescue versus a recovery,â€ť Inyo County Assistant SAR Coordinator Brian Hohenstein said Wednesday morning. â€śThe High Sierra backcountry
presents search teams with significant
challenges, but we are fortunate to have Search and Rescue support from experts throughout the state.â€ť
The search has been focused on the rugged backcountry terrain surrounding Mt. Whitney. John Likely was last seen June 14 near the cable rails on the 99 Switchbacks section while descending the peak after a successful summit bid. Two hiking companions had gone ahead and were waiting at Trail Camp, about five miles from the summit. According to the Sheriffâ€™s Department, Likely hiked at a slower pace than his companions, who reported it was routine for them to hike ahead of Likely and wait for him to catch up.
At Trail Camp, they watched Likely through their binoculars maneuvering down the switchbacks and decided to press on for Outpost Camp, their destination for the night another 2.2 miles down the mountain. When Likely never arrived, his two companions spent Saturday night searching for him and reported him missing Sunday morning.
Inyo County SAR responded immediately and was later joined by Mono County SAR and personnel from the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group.
Scouring the Sierra backcountry is a massive undertaking. Ground crews have come from China Lake and the Sierra Madre SAR, Antelope Valley SAR and the SAR teams of Marin, Contra Costa, Monterey, San Mateo, Orange and San Diego counties. Aerial reconnaissance support has come from the California Highway Patrol, Sequoia-Kings National Park and the Army National Guard out of Stockton.
According to the Sheriffâ€™s Department, the Sierra crest and surrounding areas have been flown and analyzed for signs of Likely.
Strong winds on Wednesday, as well as the Shirley Fire burning west of Lake Isabella, were creating visibility issues for aerial teams.
Wednesday afternoon, the Sheriffâ€™s Department announced upwards of 10 members would again spend the night near the Mt. Whitney trail at various locations. â€śTheir goal: to chase down any leads, interview hikers and be awake at first light to begin day five of this massive multi-agency search.â€ť
At the time of his disappearance, Likely was wearing a red San Francisco 49ers ball cap, a black jacket, dark-colored shorts and a small backpack. He has gray hair and is clean-shaven.
Hikers who may have seen Likely are asked to call Sheriffâ€™s Dispatch at (760) 878-0383.