Two hikers discovered human remains near Mt. Williamson in Inyo County this month, and according to the Sheriff’s Office, the bones may have been there for decades.
Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner spotted the remains Oct. 7 beneath a boulder on the far side of the Williamson Bowl. Hofer, a dedicated climber for eight years, said he noticed something white popping out from the gray rocks. He assumed it was a bone, possibly belonging to some sort of animal. But when the two hikers moved the rocks aside, the entirety of a human skeleton, including a skull, appeared buried beneath.
“The entire skeleton was laying there intact,” he said. “The only thing remaining were the shoes and the leather belt around it.”
Hofer said the shoes could have been rock climbing shoes, raising questions about how the person landed in the area in the first place, because it’s not considered a typical rock climbing destination.
Once the hikers summitted Mt. Williamson — the second-highest peak in California — they called the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
Using aerial support to maneuver in the remote area and difficult terrain, officials launched a recovery effort. The remains were retrieved Wednesday and taken to the Inyo County coroner.
“Based on the condition of the remains, it is believed that the body may have been in this area for quite some time — perhaps decades,” said Carma Roper, spokeswoman for the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
No missing persons reports are connected to the location or in the neighboring Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, supporting the belief that the remains may have been in the area for years.
Roper said it is “extremely unusual” to find such remains in the Eastern Sierra outside a missing persons report or active search-and-rescue operation.
According to the Associated Press, authorities ruled out 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft, a Marine from Connecticut who disappeared in February during a ski trek through the Sierra, as the body. Authorities said it’s also unlikely that the remains belong to Matthew Greene, a climber who was last seen in 2013 near the the Mammoth Lakes area.
Hofer, a pastor, said the thought that crossed his mind more than anything when looking at the bones was a sense of mortality.
“Life is precious,” he said.
Several people have contacted him in the hopes that his description of the remains could reveal clues to their missing loved ones. He hopes that, if nothing else, the finding will offer closure to someone.