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Search Under Way for Missing Hiker on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park


Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park was the backdrop Thursday for a search for a missing 73-year-old hiker. Photo by QT Luoung, used with permission.

Ground and air teams were searching Thursday for a missing 73-year-old hiker who failed to return from a day hike to the summit of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.

The search for Kenneth "Wade" Brunette has not been an easy one, as cold, windy conditions were hampering visibility on the 14,494-foot mountain that is the highest peak in the coterminous 48 states.

The search for Mr. Brunette began on Tuesday after he failed to return from a trip to the summit, park officials said. Search and rescue personnel from Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, Inyo County Search and Rescue, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Mono County Search and Rescue, and Kern County Search and Rescue, as well as helicopters from the National Park Service and the California Highway Patrol were involved in the search.

Park officials described Mr. Brunette as a solo hiker with no past medical conditions. He was last seen wearing a royal blue jacket and tan pants.

Anyone who was in the backcountry area around Whitney Portal, the Mt. Whitney summit, or the areas in Sequoia National Park around Crabtree Meadow or Mt. Russell are asked to contact investigators whether or not they saw someone matching Mr. Brunette’s description.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: 559/565-3195

Inyo County Sheriff’s Department: 760/878-0383


Good lord and still hiking at that age...I marvel at this mans spirit to seize the day in the mountains. Sounds to me Mr. Burnette is a tough old bird. I'm sure he will be found safe and sound.

He is our Uncle - and yes a truly amazing man indeed - If anyone could survive this it would be him...we ask all to pray for his survival and safe return.

When I first heard about my brother I wondered why. The highest mountain in the states that is why. Now I understand as Wade could never turn his back on a challenge.
We keep Wade, Jeanne and the family in prayer.

It's trickier than people think to navigate up there even though much of the trail is above timber line. I lost the trail coming down from Mt. Whitney and ended up scrambling up and down some dangerous slopes to find it again. I had come up the Mountaineer's Route on a dayhike and went down the main trail. I was a mile south of the summit when I made my error. Only cost me time. Hopefully Wade will be found safe.

My brother Mike is currently part of the search for your Uncle. He heads the Montrose Search and Rescue team here in the LA area, but they were requested to join the search starting yesterday. He spent the night on the slope last night and they resumed the search this morning. We are all praying they all come back safely!

My friend Wade's body was found about a week after he started out. He had taken a long fall on the East side of the ridge. his body was covered with snow and it took rescue dogs to get the scent and find him. We may never know exactly how this happened. He apparently had left his pack and ice axe, something I would have never guessed he would do. I hiked and climbed for a number of years with Wade and he was experienced and at least as strong as many younger climbers. We will miss him in our climbers community here on the kitsap peninsula.

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