California

Missing Mt. Whitney hiker is experienced climber, family says

In this photo provided by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office is the last known photo of Ling Dao that
The last known photo of Ling Dao, which he sent to a friend on June 11. Dao is believed missing on Mt. Whitney.
(Associated Press)

A Virginia man believed missing on California’s Mt. Whitney is an accomplished hiker and marathon runner who has been determined to summit the peak since a failed attempt last year, his family said Tuesday.

Search and rescue teams combed the state’s tallest peak Tuesday for a third day to look for Ling Dao, who was reported missing June 14. Snowy, icy conditions were complicating the search in an area that spanned about 30 square miles of high-mountain terrain, said Carma Roper, a spokeswoman for the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the search.

Dao, 41, flew to Las Vegas on June 11 and planned to climb Mt. Whitney on June 12, then catch a flight back to Virginia the next day, Roper said. But when he didn’t show up for work, colleagues notified the sheriff’s office.

Family members said Dao was in excellent physical condition.

“He is an experienced hiker and very athletic. Fitness is his life. He runs marathons pretty much every week,” said a sister, Chelly Dao, 25.

Last June, Dao attempted to climb Mt. Whitney with his two brothers but made it only halfway up the 14,505-foot mountain, said Kimmai Dao, 36, another sister.

“Since then, Ling has been upset about not finishing it. That’s why he wanted to do it again,” she said, adding that her two other brothers flew out to California to join the search efforts.

The family says Ling had a 1-day permit to climb Mt. Whitney and confirmed that he checked in on June 12. The sheriff’s office says it has received several reports of hikers who saw or spoke with Dao both at the summit and during his ascent.

According to a Facebook post by the sheriff’s office, the rental car company Dao used initially told the office he returned the vehicle June 14, which they later changed to June 15.

The vehicle was located June 15 at a campground parking area, and a search was launched the next day.

“Due to the misinformation provided by the rental agency, our search was delayed,” said Chelly Dao. “Our window for finding Ling is extremely small now.”