Search and Rescue Crews Recover Body of Hiker Attempting to Summit Mt Whitney, CA

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mt Whitney, california,
Mt Whitney, CA. Credit: Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

During the early afternoon of Monday, April 18, Inyo County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a report of a deceased body below the 99 switchbacks of the Mt Whitney, CA, main trail.

Due to the time of day, Inyo County Search and Rescue planned recovery for the following morning. However, by Tuesday AM, there were extremely high winds that would inhibit an aircraft to reach the subject’s location.

Inyo SAR and California Highway Patrol H80 decided to attempt the recovery at first light on Wednesday. They were able to fly over the subject’s location Wednesday morning, but due to high gusts of wind, they were unable to land or hoist. Inyo SAR and CHP H80 then attempted to fly again early afternoon. On the second attempt, they were turned around before reaching the subject’s location.

High winds and snow deterred further attempts for the remainder of the week but on Saturday, April 23, with a clear weather window, CHP H80 was able to fly and insert two Inyo SAR members via hoist to retrieve the deceased subject.

Within the past 12 months, there have been four confirmed deaths of hikers attempting to summit Mt. Whitney. Many of these have been in spring or early summer due to falls on snow and ice, where the subject did not have or know how to use critical gear like crampons and an ice ax. It is imperative that you are prepared with the proper gear and know-how to use it.

whitney, California
Mount Whitney, CA

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11 thoughts on “Search and Rescue Crews Recover Body of Hiker Attempting to Summit Mt Whitney, CA

  1. Hey Todd. Certainly Hok was very experienced and not taking anything lightly. It seemed he may have not put his spikes on yet, a decision we cannot know the reasoning behind, and which I don’t judge at all. We have all gone back and forth when on long hikes on non-technical routes, not wanting to stop and spike up because we think it’s just a small patch of ice, or that we are making good time, or because the rest of the group hasn’t decided to yet. I know I will not be doing that again.

    An old climbing instructor referred to the need for gear as a measure of the risk, not of your skill. You should rope up or spike up not because you think you might fall, but because of the potential danger if you do. This was one of those few but notable patches on the Whitney trail where the trail is narrow and the drop off is significant. He was terribly unlucky, as are the loved ones he leaves behind.

  2. Stephen, the article suggests that usually the deceased weren’t properly geared up or knowledgeable. But I knew Hok as careful, aware, skilled. His last YouTube was a memorial to another fallen hiker, stressing ice/snow safety: . Is there anything we can learn from his death? I think he used a Whippet and spikes. Were those worn?

    Thank you for attending to his body.

  3. The mist swirled and danced over the high alpine lake. Early mornings on the PCT can be so tranquil. As I finish my breakfast, a figure materializes out of the fog. Lambo. He takes the time to say goodmorning and a chat before he continues on his way. That day, he helped me push and I did my first 30+ mile day on the trail, following speedy Lambo. I will always look back fondly on this adventurous, happy, tender soul. May those he leaves behind, remember him for the love and goodness he brought to this world.

  4. Yes. I met him on Mt. San Jacinto late March; we had a pleasant chat. Very sad news. RIP Hok.

  5. I was with him that day. We climbed together before dawn, but he was faster than me and we parted company before the start of the switchbacks. When a german family of very strong climbers spotted someone off the trail near the top of the switchbacks where it joins the top of the chute, we all climbed down and traversed along the slope to where he had come to rest. We tried to resuscitate him, but could not do anything to bring him back.

    He seemed like a wonderful guy. He had offered to hang back with me, said it was nice to chat, even if I couldn’t match his pace, and now I wish I’d asked him to. Such a pity.

  6. I’ve met him several times. I know his son Hok and his widow Melissa. May God Bless him.

  7. hiker name was Hokshila Andrade (Vytautas Kazlauskas), he was lithuanian, he was 41 years old

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