Missing Hiker Found Deceased on Flanks of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park

A 73-year-old hiker missing on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park since earlier this week was found dead Saturday, park officials said.

The body of Kenneth Wade Brunette was found shortly before 1 p.m. Pacific Coast time by a dog team on the eastern slope of the 14,494-foot mountain.

The search for Mr. Brunette began on Tuesday after he failed to return from a day hike to the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States. Search efforts were complicated by extremely windy, cold conditions during the early part of the week, park officials said. The cause of the man's death is under investigation.

Approximately 100 people, including dog teams and ground searchers, and four helicopters, participated in the search.

Comments

Mr. Brunette's spirit hikes on! He's just begun the real journey.

He was where he wanted to be and doing what he wanted to do. At 73, most people have come to terms with their mortality and realize that every day should be lived like it is a gift.

Being in all probability, blown off a mountain 1500' to your death is not exactly a life affirming inspiration. this man was warned of the danger he faced, and the approaching weather. i salute anyone who chooses to do as they please being where they choose, but this accident caused a hundred others to put themselves in danger for his safety. imagine the possible triumphs this man could have achieved if he had sought the expertise of the men and women who searched for him if he had asked for their help before going it alone.

This shouldnt have happened......the main problem is hiking alone.....this also put the 100 searchers in danger with the winds and cold temps.....Mr Brunette died doing what he loved.....only soo many of us will be that lucky.....like I tell everyone else....enjoy life, but if you do something stupid, make sure it hurts or kills you ONLY....no one else.....my thoughts go to his family who have to deal with the aftermath.......

A lot of unnecessary anger and bitterness here, folks. I hope I have the stamina and ability at 73 to go where Mr. Brunette was going. He obviously wasn't a rookie and he obviously had a love for the mountains. I'd much rather have my time come in such a setting, as opposed to crossing the street and being run over.

As for those search-and-rescue teams that went in search, that's their job, and they do it with the hope they can save someone's life or lead someone to safety, and with full understanding that they could be putting themselves in harm's way.

I say raise a glass in honor of Mr. Brunette's spirit and determination, and in thanks for the SAR crews ready to go out at a moment's notice. (And a donation to your local SAR organization wouldn't hurt, either...)

Well said Kurt.

As a long-standing member of another California SAR team, we always have the option of whether or not we respond to a SAR op, but we're never forced. I make that conscious choice every time the pager goes off...and take into consideration many factors...just like many other SAR members from other groups. If a SAR field member is "risking his own life" for someone else, that's his/her choice. Some of us hear a higher calling...and that's just what we do.

I too salute Mr. Brunette, and all of the others who have reached older adult-hood and continue to hike, climb, mountain bike, etc. and not just roll over.

replying to you ANONYMOUS:: Let us not be so judgemental, do you have any facts or realize he was a husband, brother, father, grandfather, uncle etc. He has had many triumphs throughout his life, not only be being a Dr. saving lives, but by experiencing life to its fullest. How do you know Wade was warned of dangers?? Everyone is grateful to the people and animals whom searched for him. Why did you keep yourself anonymous?

Never quit moving - and never stop having adventures. I had a dear friend who died while windsurfing in big waves on Maui. He was 72. He knew he was taking chances, but he was doing something he loved. Indications are that he probably had a stroke and drowned in the turbulent water. Another windsurfer happened to see his body and tried to pull him onto his board and revive him. Lifeguards were notified and went out to retrieve him from the surf. Had he stayed on shore and simply watched others sail he probably would be alive today. Those who tried to help would not have put themselves in harms way. Was he wrong to go into challenging conditions? I guess that depends on your point of view. His wife misses him terribly, but she said that he went the way he would have picked if given the choice. The people who knew him agreed. He is missed but not mourned.

Kurt,
I agree with your comment re a lot of unnecessary anger and bitterness, but I don't read in this article anything to indicate "he obviously wasn't a rookie".
Neither is there anything here to state whether "this man was warned of the danger he faced" or if "he had sought the expertise of the men and women who searched for him if he had asked for their help before going it alone", as Anonymous put it.
I certainly agree that the folks from SAR deserve a salute for all they do.
Nevertheless, when it's time for me to go, I hope it's doing that "full-body slide" and holding my last dollar high in my hand!

Rap

Rap, a 73-year-old does not idly go out for a day hike up Mount Whitney....

Several articles on Mr Brunette describe him as experienced. I'd think he had a permit and traveled from Washington. He was supposedly overdue, which indicates that he left his plans with someone else. The most likely thing was that he slipped and fell. That can happen even with people who are extremely well prepared if there's any kind of exposure - especially if winds started kicking up.

Search Crew Finds Body of Missing Hansville Climber
http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/nov/02/search-crew-finds-body-of-missing-hansville/?partner=RSS

Investigators are looking in to what happened to Brunette.

He began a solo attempt at the 14,505-foot summit, the tallest in the Lower 48, on Oct. 25. He was reported overdue the following day.

The search was hampered by high winds that prevented searchers from using helicopters to search the remote terrain.

Brunette was described as an experienced mountaineer.

Kurt, thank you so much. I am obviously a relative of Wades and was very distressed about the person blogging about warnings, etc, it made me very suspicious about him vs. Wade's fate. We may not even know what happened after the autopsy results are released. I am just a niece, but I can tell you he leaves behind a wonderful wife, children, grandchildren, brother nieces, nephews, and tons of in laws = etc so many people that care about him. He was a Dr. and would have never intentionally put anyone in harms way, his life was to diagnose problems to keep people living longer. He loved climbing, sailing, his family, helping people and I wish we would all have 1/2 of his zest for life as our lives would be much better. The family's request for his memorial is to donate to the SAR that assisted in trying to find him. I guess the negativity of some people just got to me; his family has enough to deal with without having to read the negativity toward him when they just lost him and have no answers. The anonymous, angry blog made me wonder if this man met him on the mountain confronted him and did him harm. My apologies to you. Thank you so much for being to kind and a good mediator.

There was a group of us that hiked Whitney on Oct.11. Just a few weeks before Mr. Brunette. We trained for months before the BIG hike. Kurt hands down is correct! A 73 yr old man does not idly go out for a day hike up Mt. Whitney. He was obiviously an experience hiker and he knew what risks he was taking just like every hiker does before they set out on a hike of this magnitude. I just hope that when I'm 73 yrs old I still take on awesome adventures as he did. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Mr. Brunette ,And to Judy I'm sorry for all the insensitive remarks made from people who will never take on adventures like your Uncle (who was probably an awesome man and a blast to be around) I'm hiking Whitney again In July 2010 for my sisters 40th Bday. I will have with me a keep sake to put in the metal box at the summit in remembrance of Kenneth Wade Brunette.

The Timm Family

To The Timm Family: Thank you so much for your sensitivity. I have not been on this site for a long time, but I hope you receive this message. Wade was a hoot, full of life and to look at him you would never know he was 73. He died, doing what he loved. He would never put anyone in harms way. I am not a climber, and will never be one, but hats off to you who can. His Wisconsin Memorial service had to be canceled due to 14.5 inches of snow, but those of us who still made the trip were in awe of his spirit. I wish you and your family a very safe climb in July, and God Bless You for putting a keep sake in the box for him. He would truly be devastated that people put their selves in harms way to try to find him. I shiver thinking about [his death], but at least it was on the mountain!! God Bless and keep you safe Judy

this is why you hike with someone!