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Contact: Dana Dierkes, 559-565-3131Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, CA – On Saturday, July 23, 2016, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' and Inyo County Sheriff's Office, in cooperation with other partners, continued searching in the vicinity of Mt. Whitney for missing hiker John Lee, a 68-year-old male from Mentone, CA. Other partners involved in the search include Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Sheriff's Office Mountain Rescue Team, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, California Air National Guard, and Cal OES. A total of 66 staff and volunteers have been assigned to search efforts today. Additional information received from one of Lee's hiking companions indicated that Lee realized the route he had taken with his hiking companions was difficult and that he had departed from his hiking party to find a safe route for the party to descend. Previous reports indicated that Mr. Lee wanted to continue to summit Mt. Whitney.
-- Monday, July 18, 2016, at 4 a.m. - Lee and several friends started to hike from Whitney Portal with the goal of hiking to the top of Mt. Whitney and returning to their vehicle at the trailhead by the end of the day. The group intended to follow the Mountaineer's Route. Concerned for their safety, the group stopped and slept near the top of the Whitney-Russell Pass near the Sierra crest—approximately ½-mile from the top of Mt. Whitney.
-- Tuesday, July 19, 2016, at 6:00 a.m. - Three of the members of the hiking party stayed behind while Lee continued on. Lee's hiking companions saw his pack "hanging" on a granite ledge. The hiking party waited for Lee for several hours. When Lee did not return, the rest of his group believed they would meet Lee at the car and left the area. They descended with the assistance of several experienced hikers they met along the way. They returned to the Whitney Portal trailhead around 10 p.m.
-- Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - Inyo County Sheriff's Office initiated a search. On Wednesday California Highway Patrol H-80 (CHP helicopter) out of Apple Valley provided aerial reconnaissance. Searching was done by aerial reconnaissance only—no ground search teams.
-- Thursday, July 21, 2016 - Inyo SAR members were flown to search areas above and below the Mountaineer's Route on Mt. Whitney with the assistance of CHP H-80. According to information received, Lee was last seen above Iceberg Lake in a chute as he was ascending. Inyo County started to search in the area of Whitney-Russell Pass based upon initial information. More search-and-rescue members arrived to continue the Lee search in the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake area, and Arctic Lakes Basin. The Inyo County Sheriff's Office notified Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks about the missing hiker. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks provided aircraft support for Inyo County's search-and-rescue operation. Thursday support was provided by: Inyo County Sheriff's Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Cal OES, and CHP H-80.
-- Friday, July 22, 2016, at 1 p.m. - On Friday, July 22, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Inyo County Sheriff's Office, and partners continued search efforts on both Inyo National Forest and in Sequoia National Park. A backpack was located north of the Mountaineer's Route on a rocky outcropping. The pack was positively identified as John Lee's. Additional search-and-rescue members arrived to continue the search with an expanded search grid to include the Mt. Russell area, Iceberg Lake area, and Arctic Lakes Basin. Support includes: Inyo County Sheriff's Office, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Marin County Search and Rescue, Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Placer County Search and Rescue, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CHP H-80, California Air National Guard, and Cal OES. Search crews are continuing their efforts near and around the location of the pack.