"Make responsible decisions" – hikers warned as rockfall claims third life in one week on Mt Whitney

Snow on Mount WHitney with rocks in the foreground
The hiker, struck on Sunday, has not yet been identified (Image credit: Ed Bannister)

Hazardous spring conditions on Mount Whitney have resulted in another death, marking the third fatality on the California peak in a single week.

According to a Facebook post by Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, which you can see below, a call was received on Sunday morning reporting that a hiker on the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek was severely injured after being hit by a falling rock.

Mountain rescue teams were dispatched via helicopter to the area, where they inserted a crew member via hoist to the scene. However, it was determined that the hiker, who has not yet been identified, had died from their injuries, and the rescue mission turned into a recovery operation.

"Early spring conditions prevail on the mountain, with treacherous steep snow, loose rock, and variable weather," warns the Sheriff's Office. 

"Parties venturing onto Mt. Whitney should stay together, turn around before deteriorating conditions become unmanageable, make responsible decisions, and be prepared and fit.

Last week, a California couple was reported overdue after setting off to hike and ski Mount Whitney. Their bodies were recovered on May 9, and though the cause of death has not yet been released, there were serious weather advisories in the area at the time. At 14,505 feet, the Sierra Nevada peak is the highest in the contiguous United States.

Rockfall safety

Rockfall can occur at any time, but it is more common in the spring due to freeze-thaw cycles. The Colorado Geological Survey reports that most fatalities from rockslides actually occur on roads, not hiking trails. That said, 2013, a family of five was tragically killed by a rockslide on a popular hiking trail in Colorado, near the town of Buena Vista, while a hiker was killed in Yosemite National Park in 2017 when a chunk of granite broke off El Capitan and tumbled onto a trail below. Learn more about how to stay safe in our article on rockslide safety.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.