The body of a 41-year-old hiker from Virginia was found on Mt. Whitney after a three-day search in snowy, icy terrain of California’s tallest peak, authorities said Wednesday.
An air search located the body of Ling Dao on the north side of the 14,505-foot mountain in Sequoia National Park, according to a statement from the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
“What helped to locate him was his bright orange jacket,” which was spotted from the search helicopter, said Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, spokeswoman for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Dao was last seen alive at the summit by other hikers June 12, who informed authorities of the location, which ultimately led them to his body about 1,900 feet from the summit at an altitude of about 12,600 feet, Kawasaki-Yee said.
Family members described Dao as an accomplished hiker who loved outdoor sports and regularly ran marathons. He had attempted to climb Mt. Whitney last June with his two brothers but the group made it only halfway up, and he had been determined to reach the top ever since, said his sister Kimmai Dao, 36.
Dao set out on an ambitious travel schedule, flying into Las Vegas on June 11 with plans to climb Mt. Whitney in a one-day solo hike on June 12 and then take a night flight back and return to work the next morning, according to his family and authorities.
Dao’s colleagues in Virginia contacted authorities when he did not show up for work on June 13.
The family has expressed dismay that the search for Dao was delayed by a mix-up with his rental car company, which initially told the sheriff’s office he returned the vehicle June 14, which they later changed to June 15 — but that wasn’t the case.
The vehicle was located June 15 at a campground parking area, and a search was launched the next day.
Dao’s body was turned over to coroners, who will determine the cause of death.
Authorities say they don’t yet know if Dao’s death was related to weather but said in a statement that backcountry conditions can be hazardous this time of year with snow instability, ice and rock slides.