Two Hikers Found Dead on Mount Whitney After Going Missing

Two hikers, Patricia Bolan and Andrew Niziol, were found dead on Mount Whitney, California, after going missing while attempting to ski or snowboard down the mountain. Their bodies were located in Tulare County, and the cause of death has not been released pending further investigation.

Nitish Verma
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Two Hikers Found Dead on Mount Whitney After Going Missing

Two Hikers Found Dead on Mount Whitney After Going Missing

The bodies of two hikers were discovered on Mount Whitney, California, on Tuesday after they went missing while attempting to climb the 14,505-foot peak. Patricia Bolan, 29, of Davis, and Andrew Niziol, 28, of South Lake Tahoe, had planned to ski or snowboard from the "Notch" area to their campsite at Upper Boy Scout Lake but never arrived.

Why this matters: This tragic incident serves as a reminder of the dangers and unpredictability of wilderness adventures, highlighting the importance of preparedness and caution when exploring extreme environments. It also underscores the need for authorities to prioritize search and rescue operations, especially in areas with high-risk activities like mountaineering.

The Inyo County Sheriff's Office received a call around 8:30 p.m. on May 7 from a person who had been hiking with Bolan and Niziol. The caller waited several hours at the campsite for the pair to arrive before contacting authorities. Search and rescue teams were deployed, using a helicopter and foot crews to scour the area.

The bodies of the missing hikers were later located on a part of the mountain within neighboring Tulare County. "We haven't released the names yet... We have the bodies, but we're waiting to notify next of kin," said Teresa Douglass, a spokeswoman for the Tulare County Sheriff's Office, which is handling the investigation. The cause of death has not been released at this time.

Mount Whitney, situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains approximately 220 miles north of Los Angeles, is the highest peak in the contiguous United States. The mountain has many potential hazards, according to the US Forest Service, including high altitude, steep terrain, snow and ice on trails, high winds, lightning storms, and severe winter weather.

Bolan had recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Physics from UC Davis at the end of the Winter 2024 term. According to Niziol's Instagram posts, the two appeared to be dating. Just days before heading to Mount Whitney, the couple had climbed Mount Shasta. "This is the kind of living I've dreamed about for 15 years," Niziol wrote. "I've finally surrounded myself with people to share these types of experiences with and I couldn't be more thankful."

The Tulare County Sheriff-Coroner's Office currently has custody of the couple's bodies, with examinations scheduled for next week todetermine the manner of death. Current conditions on Mount Whitney include patches of snow, with parts of the trail becoming almost completely snow-covered. The tragedy serves as a sobering reminder of the dangers that can befall even experienced hikers in the wilderness.