Monday, November 9, 2009

Inyo County SAR Website

I've just been looking online, and the Inyo County SAR has a website where you can read more about what they do and who they are. They also have an online donation form which allows you to dedicate your donation as a memorial.

Inyo County SAR

More information about SAR is available on the Mountain Rescue Association website, including information on the other SAR teams involved in the search for Wade.

Memorial Service Details

A memorial service will be held for Wade on November 22nd, 2009 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Driftwood Key Club, 37608 Vista Key Drive, Hansville WA 98340.

A google map and directions are available at the following link: Driftwood Key Club

For ferry times consult the Washington State Ferry website

All are welcome attend, but we understand that Wade and his family are in the thoughts and prayers of those who are unable to come.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Happened?

We'll never know exactly what happened or why. The SAR team with search dogs found Wade on the eastern slope of Mt. Whitney, where he had fallen from a great height, probably on the Sunday that he set out. It seems that after he left his pack, he climbed back to up to the ridge in an attempt to come back down the route he had come up. The end was quick, and Wade didn't suffer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Donations in Memory of Wade

Donations in memory of Wade may be made in support of the Mount Whitney Search and Rescue teams that spent so many hours and showed so much heartfelt concern for us. The funds will go toward equipment and training for the volunteers to assist in future search and rescue operations.

Checks may be made out to Inyo County SAR and sent to:

Inyo County SAR
P.O. Box 982
Bishop, CA 93515

Please note: In memory of Wade.


We're planning a memorial for Wade in the afternoon on Sunday, November 22nd at the Driftwood Key clubhouse in Hansville, WA. We'll post more details later.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thank You

We want to say thank you to all the SAR teams for everything they've done for us, especially Micah and Terry, who have been great. We'd also like to thank everyone who's shown us support over the past few days.

Jeanne is still not up to taking calls from anyone except immediate family, but we really appreciate all the e-mails and comments on this blog.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What Next?

Kathryn and Julie are here now, and after some rest, we'll begin making plans for what comes next.

Wade Found

SAR teams found Wade today. Unfortunately, he didn't make it. Many already know, but Julie and Kathryn are still driving to Lone Pine from LA and don't know yet. Please don't call or text them, as we want to wait for them to arrive to tell them.

News Release

I saw this news release on the Whitney Portal Store Message Board but couldn't find it on the National Parks Service website to get the link:



Registered: 10-30-09

Posts: 2

Loc: Sequoia NP, CA

( For Immediate Release, October 31, 2009

Contact: Adrienne Freeman, 559/565-3131

Search Effort for Missing Washington Man Continues near

Mt. Whitney

A large scale interagency effort to find Wade Brunette will continue through the weekend in the remote, mountainous area around Mt. Whitney. Searchers are collecting clues in the field and are continuing to search on both sides of the Sierra Nevada crest. Approximately 100 searchers are participating in the effort.

Search and rescue personnel (including ground searchers and dog teams) from Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks and rescue teams from Inyo, Mono, Los Angeles, Fresno, Tulare, Sierra Madre, Montrose, and Contra Costa Counties and China Lake Mountain Rescue Unit are currently on scene. Helicopters from the National Park Service and the National Guard are being utilized for aerial searching and for team transport into the remote backcountry area.

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


Helicopter Up

I saw the Chinook helicopter a little while ago, and the weather is sunny and warm again today. The flags are hanging pretty limp, so there shouldn't be a problem getting up there.

A Stop Along the Way

Someone asked me why Wade chose to climb Mt. Whitney at this time. This was a stop along the way to a vacation rental house in Green Valley, Arizona, and late October is a nice time to visit there. Wade and Jeanne had been through Lone Pine several times in past years, and Wade has had his eye on climbing Mt. Whitney for a long time. He applied for his permit approximately six weeks ago, and had been planning the climb with great anticipation. When he showed me the webcam pictures a few weeks ago, I never thought I would be here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Map of the Summit

Thanks to Micah at Inyo County SAR for sending me these coordinates. I'm pretty sure this is the spot where they found the pack. Go to Google Maps and copy and paste this into the search box:

N 36 33.80 W 118 17.60

The green arrow marks the spot. You can click on different views to see a map, satellite view, and terrain.

You can also see where the trail ends at the summit, and the fork in the trail. Wade climbed up the trail that disappears off to the right, and possibly went down the trail that switchbacks to the left.


I forgot to say earlier that there were footprints leading away from Wade's pack that they found today.


Thanks to the Inyo County SAR team here in Lone Pine for sharing these photos.

This is the photo the three hikers took on Sunday about a mile from the summit.

This is Mt. Whitney from the East, which is what we see from Lone Pine.

Kathryn and Julie

My sisters Kathryn and Julie are coming from Australia and Indonesia to be with us. They'll be here tomorrow, flying to LA, then driving here. My brother Steve in Seattle wishes he could be here.

Friday's Search

The big news today is that they found Wade's pack and ice axe. They first spotted it from a helicopter, then were able to get to it on the ground. An initial search inside turned up his wallet with ID. The pack is now at the base on the other side of the mountain, and at the time that I spoke with the SAR team this afternoon, they didn't have an inventory of its contents. They found it at about noon, and were planning a search with dogs, I can't remember if that was started today or will start tomorrow. There are two dog teams.

The pack was clean and in good condition, and looked like it had been set on the ground, did not slide down the mountain.

The pack was found a bit off the switchback trail that goes down the west side of the mountain, so the concentration of the search tomorrow will be on the west side, though they will continue to search the east side in case he went back up and over the ridge.

They also found a pair of wraparound sunglasses with a tortoiseshell frame on the trail, but we aren't sure if they are his. Any of the hiking buddies remember if he had glasses like that?

Tonight teams are camped on both the east and west sides; at Guitar Lake on the west side and Trail Camp on the east side.

If you want to see a 3D image of the mountain, search for Google Earth, download the free software, then search for Mt. Whitney. It's pretty amazing technology.

That's what I can think of right now. I have a few photos and links that I'm going to try to post soon.

More Info

In my first post I forgot to say that a pair of hikers reached the summit on Monday (the day after Wade was there) and they took a photo of the paper registry at the top. Wade's name wasn't there. This may be because he was too tired and cold to sign it at the time, or he may have turned back before reaching the summit. These hikers came up a different trail than Wade had been on, and didn't know anything about him being missing at the time. We feel lucky to have this piece of information, however inconclusive it is.

Today's Information

I have some new developments since last night.

The weather is better today, much less wind. There are helicopters going up. I just saw the Chinook helicopter heading for its second trip up. According to Micah of the SAR headquarters, this helicopter is from the National Guard, and they are trying to place two teams, one at the summit, and one at Iceburg Lake.

I heard earlier that a CHP helicopter was up doing reconnaissance.

The Sequoia National Park service has two helicopters inserting ten teams, up to five people per team (no fewer than two people per team)

First update

Here's the text of an e-mail I sent out to family and friends last night.

This is Michelle (Wade’s daughter). For those of you who don’t know, Wade climbed Mt. Whitney near Lone Pine, California on Sunday, and is now missing. I am with Jeanne in Lone Pine now. I got here yesterday, and this afternoon Jeanne and I talked to the people at the Sheriff’s office who are in charge of the search and rescue (SAR). Here’s what we know (I’m writing this from memory and don’t have all the maps in front of me right now)

They haven’t been able to get helicopters up on this side of the mountain because of high winds. Today they were able use a helicopter to get a team up to a ranger cabin on the other side of the mountain a few miles from the summit, which is a huge gain because it’s a 4 day hike to that location from that side. They hiked up a bit from there and didn’t find anything, then had to return to camp and will try again tomorrow.

There are 8 different agencies involved in the SAR effort, and they are coordinating together.

Tomorrow they have 2 dogs that will be helping, using a pair of Wade’s jeans for the scent. I don’t know which team they’re with.

There is a team at a camp on this side a few miles from the summit, preparing to set out tomorrow.

A group of three hikers saw Wade on Sunday near the summit, talked to him and took a picture, which they sent to the SAR team. The picture was very helpful to the SAR because it shows what he was wearing and some of his equipment. They have also interviewed all hikers who had permits to climb in this time period, and are tracking down others who might know anything.

The weather is forecast to be windy again tomorrow (the days have been sunny, the nights cold), but if there is a window of opportunity, they are ready to send up the helicopter. If it’s not safe, the helicopter won’t be able to go.

A little way down from the summit, water is available.

There is a point somewhat near the summit where the trail up this side of the mountain meets the trail up from the other side, and hikers have been known to take a wrong turn there, and that is why the search on the other side is so important.

Most of the people involved in the SAR effort are volunteers, but all are skilled, and they are having to turn away people who want to help but don’t have the necessary skills. We don’t want anyone else to get hurt.

There is a thread on a message board forum that is discussing this:

Most of all we’re really touched by all the effort that’s going into the search, and are praying for his safe return.

I’ll be sending out updates when I know something, but most of the time we’re waiting for news, too. I’ve sent this out to people I’ve found in the e-mail address book (only what I have access to online), but if I’ve missed anyone, please forward it on. Also, Jeanne is having a very hard time talking to people about this on the phone, and would prefer not to receive calls. She hopes you understand.

Thanks to all who are thinking of us.