On Monday, July 18, at 4 a.m., 68-year-old John Lee of Mentone, CA set out to hike Mount Whitney. Lee and three friends hiked out of Whitney Portal with the intent of summiting Mount Whitney in a day. Their intended path was the Mountaineer’s Route, a third and fourth class ascent to the summit block that is often climbed with a rope and traditional climbing gear. According to a press release from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI), the hikers were benighted about a half mile from the summit of Mount Whitney, near the top of Whitney-Russell Pass.
Lee’s companions initially reported that Lee left his three hiking partners at about 6 a.m. the following morning, and continued onward toward the summit of Mount Whitney. The hikers reported seeing his pack “hanging” on a granite ledge, and waited several hours for his return. Finally, they descended, believing Lee would meet them at their car. He did not.