Body of missing hiker is found on Mt. Whitney during massive search effort

The body of a 68-year-old man was found Sunday, five days after he disappeared when he separated from his hiking group during an excursion on Mt. Whitney.

Search and rescue crews from across California had been looking for John Lee for days, but couldn’t find him, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.

Then, on Sunday evening, a helicopter searching in Sequoia National Park found his body at the base of the mountain’s southwest slope. At 14,494 feet, the summit is the tallest in the contiguous United States. Lee’s body was found at 12,500 feet.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Lee's family and friends during this very difficult time,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Lee and his friends began the climb to Mt. Whitney about 4 a.m. Monday. They stopped overnight and slept near the top of Whitney-Russell Pass because they were concerned about their safety.

The next day, Lee spilt from the hiking party because he realized the route to the mountain was too difficult, according to the National Park Service. Lee, of Mentone, went off to find a safe route for his group to descend, the park service said.

His friends saw his backpack hanging on a granite ledge, so they waited for hours and then began descending.

When they didn’t see him, he was reported missing.

Crews searched the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake and Arctic Lakes basin for Lee.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

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