Massive Search Underway for Missing Man on Lower 48’s Highest Peak After Spending Unplanned Night Out

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backpack location. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
backpack location. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office

A 68-year-old man, Bum “John” Lee, has been missing on 14,495′ Mt. Whitney, CA, the Lower 48’s highest peak, since Tuesday.

Lee is from Redlands, CA and was last seen while climbing the Mountaineers Route’s on Whitney.  He was last seen above Iceberg Lake in a the steep chute that forms the Mountaineer’s Route.

The complex part of the story is that Lee was ascending the Mountaineer’s Route for a day hike on Monday with friends and the group spent an unplanned night out.  In the morning, the group descended, but Lee decided to continue up to the summit and has not been seen again.

From where they found his backpack, it’s clear that he was way off route in a high consequence zone.  A fall in that zone could be fatal.  Our fingers are crossed for a best case scenario.

“At approximately 1:00 this afternoon [Firday] a backpack was located north of the Mountaineer’s Route on a rocky outcropping; the pack was positively identified as John Lee’s.
Lee’s hiking companions reported that as they were ascending Monday on what they believed was the Mountaineer’s Route for a day hike; they became concerned for their safety and spent the night. In the morning the group began to descend, but Mr. Lee wanted to continue on to summit Whitney, and hike out. The hiking companions watched Mr. Lee “hang” his pack on a granite ledge, perhaps to be less cumbersome as he climbed toward the summit. Search crews are continuing their efforts near and around the location of the pack. A photo has been provided for visual context of the backpack location.” – Inyo Sheriff’s Office

backpack location - green line is Mountaineer's Route. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
backpack location – green line is Mountaineer’s Route. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office
Bum "John" Lee.
Bum “John” Lee.

Updates from Inyo County Sheriff’s Office:

Saturday UPDATE: Today is another massive multiagency search for missing hiker John Lee.
Saturday’s support includes: Sequoia-Kings National Park, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, California Air National Guard, and CalOES.
Updates will be posted as they are received.

Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office

Friday afternoon update: At approximately 1:00 this afternoon a backpack was located north of the Mountaineer’s Route on a rocky outcropping; the pack was positively identified as John Lee’s.
Lee’s hiking companions reported that as they were ascending Monday on what they believed was the Mountaineer’s Route for a day hike; they became concerned for their safety and spent the night. In the morning the group began to descend, but Mr. Lee wanted to continue on to summit Whitney, and hike out. The hiking companions watched Mr. Lee “hang” his pack on a granite ledge, perhaps to be less cumbersome as he climbed toward the summit. Search crews are continuing their efforts near and around the location of the pack. A photo has been provided for visual context of the backpack location.

Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office

Friday July 22, 2016 Lee Search UPDATE: Inyo County Search and Rescue (SAR) is gearing up for another massive multiagency search for missing hiker Bum “John” Lee. Lee has been missing since Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday CHP H-80 out of Apple Valley provided aerial reconnaissance; however Lee was not located. Inyo SAR members were inserted above and below the Mountaineer’s Route on Mt. Whitney yesterday with the assistance of CHP H-80. This morning additional SAR members are arriving to continue the Lee search with an expanded search grid to include the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake area, and Arctic Lakes Basin.

Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office

Thursday support was provided by: Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, CalOES, and CHP H-80. Today support includes: Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, CHP H-80, California Air National Guard, and CalOES.
If anyone has any information that may assist in this search please contact Sheriff’s Dispatch as 760-878-0383.

Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office

Thursday, July 21st: A search is underway for missing man, Bum “John” Lee, a 68-year old man from the Redlands area in California. Sheriff’s Dispatch was alerted Tuesday afternoon. According to the information received, Lee was attempting the Mountaineer’s Route on Mt. Whitney, and was last seen above Iceberg Lake in the chute as he was ascending. If anyone has any information that may assist in this search please contact Sheriff’s Dispatch as 760-878-0383.
Agencies participating Thursday’s search: Inyo SAR, Inyo SO, CHP, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff's office
Photo from the rescue crew this week. photo: inyo country sheriff’s office

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