This Chinook helicopter at the Lone Pine airport was used to rescue three climbers from the summit of Mt. Whitney on Thursday. The storms on Monday stranded two separate parties in the Lone Pine area. Photo By Sterling Schat
Two groups of hikers were stranded in the Sierra Nevada near Lone Pine caught in the October storms. One group made its way out of the Meysan Lakes area, but ended up more than 50 miles off course while the other group was stuck on top of Mount Whitney.
Three hikers from Nebraska tried to scale Mount Whitney on Monday, but as of Thursday morning, they had not been heard from. The National Park Service issued missing person announcements for the men. The three were found during a break in the storm at noon on Thursday, all alive and talking, and were airlifted out of the backcountry by 2 p.m.
The search and rescue efforts of more than 45 personnel had been thwarted until Thursday due to the storm that had dumped 1-3 feet of snow and brought frigid temperatures into the high country on Monday night. Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park Search and Rescue was the lead agency on this incident with Inyo SAR assisting.
The three, Phillip Michael Abraham 34, Stevan James Filips 43 and Dale Clymens 45, were part of a larger group from the Midwest calling themselves, the Landmark Group Endurance Team. The Omaha World-Herald is reporting that the team of 10 had been training all year for the California adventure. First the team rode bicycles across Death Valley on Saturday and Sunday and planned on going from the lowest to the highest points in the U.S. with a hike up the Mt. Whitney trail on Monday.
According to text messages from one of the party, they had summited on Monday afternoon in a light snow flurry, but the storm became worse on the way down and they decided to stay on the summit, seeking shelter in the hundred year-old stone summit hut. The three have been described as experienced mountain climbers and that a lack of communication is most likely due to cell phone batteries dying.
Reports from Sequoia and anecdotal recounts on the Internet from others that were on the trail Monday and Tuesday, are that snow drifts were up to three feet high and the trail was difficult to find and follow above 13,000 feet.
A year ago, almost to the day, 73-year old Kenneth Wade Brunette was found deceased after going for a day hike to the summit in similarly snowy conditions.
Another party, a father and son, were overdue from a 36-mile round trip adventure starting and ending at the Whitney Portal were found Friday. The two men â€“ Sina Sadeghi Baghsorkhi, 27, and Abdolreza Sadeghi, 56 â€“ were supposed to be back Tuesday and SAR was called out when the pair did not return.
The two walked out on park trails in the Cedar Grove area, approximately 50 miles away and far from their original planned route. Approximately 70 people assisted with the search and rescue effort. Groups searching for the missing hikers included the National Park Service, Los Angeles County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Inyo County Sheriffâ€™s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, and the California National Guard.