A 50-year-old Army reservist died while trying to climb Mt. Whitney in the eastern Sierra Nevada in central California, in the midst of single-digit temperatures, high winds and several feet of snow.
Eric Goepfert was found by search and rescue teams on Sunday at the base of the Ebersbacher Ledges, a 200-foot ledge system that is part of the North Fork trail, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
Goepfert left the Whitney Portal trailhead on Dec. 13, intending a winter ascent of the mountain and had planned to be in the back country for five days and four nights. His wife contacted the sheriff’s office when he did not return Dec. 17.
Deputies found his rental car was found at the trailhead the next day.
Search and rescue teams then located a satellite communication device and a trekking pole near the base of the Ebersbacher Ledges. A CHP helicopter, using a RECCO radar system, detected faint signals from passive reflector chips, possibly from Goepfet’s clothing.
On Sunday, an avalanche probe was used to locate Goepfert’s body, which was buried under deep snow, directly below the items.
The sheriff’s office said Geopfert was likely suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness when he fell 30 feet to the base of the ledges. This was coupled with a heavy winter hiking pack and the severe storm conditions at the time.
The sheriff’s office estimates the fall happened Dec. 14.
The sheriff’s office noted his military experience in its social media post: “Goepfert served in the US Army from the age of 18 and was an active Army Reservist. Inyo County Sheriff’s Office extends our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Goepfert family and to Eric Goepfert’s teammates and friends.”
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