Searchers In Kings Canyon National Park Looking For 53-Year-Old Backpacker

Deep snows were hampering a search in Kings Canyon National Park for Larry Conn, a California man who failed to return from a backpacking trek on time. Bottom photo shows part of search area. NPS photos.

Snow, possibly more than a foot on the ground, is hampering efforts to find an overdue backpacker who might be in the high country of Kings Canyon National Park.

The search for Larry Conn, 53, of Pacific Palisades, California, has been ongoing since Wednesday. Mr. Conn, an experienced backpacker familiar with the area, had started his trek on October 19 and was expected to exit the Taboose Creek Trailhead in the Inyo National Forest on October 22, according to Kings Canyon officials.

Mr. Conn's intended route was to go over Taboose Pass towards the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon. His route might also have included Split Mountain and Pinchot Pass, park officials said. The search area is between 10,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation, an area where upwards of 18 inches of snow has accumulated on the ground and overnight lows have tipped into the 20s.

Ground crews were being aided by three helicopters, including one with thermal imaging technology.

The backpacker was described as standing 5-foot-10, weighing 160 pounds, and wearing short black hair and goatee flecked with grey.

Comments

My wife and I have been following this situation in The Inyo Register for the past two days without being provided with the age of the hiker and intended itinerary while trying to piece together what this hiker may have encountered. The hiker would have been required to secure, provide an itineary, and carry a Wilderness Permit for an overnight hike.

Today's 11/3/12 Inyo Register indicates the multi-agency search for hiker Larry Conn involving 56 personnel with 10 ground search teams, 3 dog teams, and 5 helicopters has been terminated.

In 2008, approximately one week, maybe 10 days, before September 19, I left South Lake alone, going over Bishop Pass and down the Dusey Basin to Le Conte Canyon on the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail. I then swung south on the PCT/JMT with Whitney Portal as the intended destination. At the end of the second day, I camped towards the middle to southerly end of Lower Palisades Lake.

The following morning I awoke to strong winds and an approaching storm front. Having a difficult time determining both the direction of the wind and intensity of the storm, I quickly broke camp and moved south as fast as I could up to Mather Pass, where it appeared I was at the top (strong winds from the east), if not the front face, of a storm front moving southwest to northeast. As I stood in increasing rain, I looked south at a solid wall of clouds and snow coming at me.

My plan was to get off of Mather Pass and the PCT/JMT to lower ground as fast as I could. I hiked south on the PCT/JMT to the junction of the Taboose Pass and Pinchot Pass trails, taking the Taboose Pass trail (which I had never hiked) east, where snow blew horizontally south to north across my face (indicating I was at the face, not the tail end, of this storm).

Eventually, I finished the Taboose Pass trail (a difficult, lousy, unmaintained trail to hike down), getting down to the floor of the warmer Owens Valley at midnight (after hiking 25 miles that day), setting up and sleeping in my tent off of the shoulder of US 395 north, and the next morning waiving down and catching a northbound CREST Lone Pine-Reno bus to Bishop. From Bishop, I watched that storm, which was camped out on top of the Pacific Crest, for the next two days.

We hope for the best for Larry Conn.