At noon on Tuesday, May 23, a two-day search ended when the body of Dongying “Cindy” Qui was located at the base of a frozen waterfall near Outpost Camp. Her body was discovered about a quarter-mile off trail.
“This is an incredibly tragic situation, and based on the extreme snow conditions in the backcountry, it could have happened to anyone,” said Inyo County Sheriff’s Corporal Nick Vaughn.
Rescuers believe that Cindy fell approximately 60 feet through a snow chute at the top of the waterfall. The 27-year-old woman from San Marino, Calif., was traveling with two companions when she reached Trail Crest (elevation 13,600 feet) on the Mount Whitney Trail. She informed her hiking partners that she wouldn’t be continuing, instead planning to hike solo back to the trailhead at Whitney Portal.
When her companions realized Cindy had not returned to the trailhead, they called for assistance.
Support for the search was provided by Sierra Madre SAR, san Bernardino SAR, China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, Inyo SAR; aerial support was provided by the Army National Guard and the California Highway Patrol.
Currently, the Sierra is snowbound at about 8,500 feet elevation and above. Trails are snow-covered and creeks are running swift and cold, while also undermining the snow that is above the waterways.