A search for Tom Gerbier, an Air France pilot who went missing while hiking California, came to a heartbreaking end when his body was discovered on Thursday. The 38-year-old French national fell 1,000 feet to his death in Sequoia National Park.
The National Park Service initiated the search after Gerbier failed to show up for work on Wednesday, where he was scheduled to pilot a commercial flight. He had embarked on his hike from Whitney Portal, the starting point for those tackling the towering Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States.
A multi-agency effort was deployed to locate Gerbier, including the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo Search and Rescue Team, and the climbing community. During a helicopter search, he was spotted in an area known as “The Notch.”
Despite the valiant efforts to rescue him, Gerbier’s life could not be saved. His body was recovered and transferred to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office for identification.
This unfortunate incident marks the second fatality this year within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, jointly administered by the National Park Service. For Gerbier, this visit to California was only a brief stopover during his airline duties.
Mt. Whitney has long captivated mountain climbers and adventurers, standing at approximately 14,494 feet. While it is renowned for its allure, the park service notes on its website that “technical climbing equipment is not usually necessary between mid-July and early October.” However, it remains unclear whether Gerbier used any climbing equipment during his hike.
The incident serves as a somber reminder of the challenges and inherent risks that can accompany even the most picturesque outdoor pursuits.