SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS – Tom Gerbier, a French National of Fontenay-sous-Bois, France, and pilot for Air France, was reported missing when he didn’t show up for his return flight. He started his hike from Whitney Portal early Tuesday morning, October 17, via the Mountaineering Route and was due back on a flight on Wednesday, October 18.  

Photo of NPS Ranger rigging for short haul. NPS Photo
Photo of NPS Ranger rigging for short haul. NPS Photo

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office took the lead on this search and rescue operation with fly overs of Mt. Whitney on Wednesday, the day Mr. Gerbier was reported missing, with no result. Early on Thursday morning the National Park Service and Inyo County launched ground teams into the area. As ground teams began to summit on the Mountaineering Route, they noticed clues that a hiker may have fallen off a cliff in the area known as “The Notch.” The NPS helicopter assisting with search operations was redirected to that area and located a motionless hiker with clothing matching the description provided. The hiker had fallen about 1,000 feet. Thursday evening Mr. Gerbier’s body was recovered via helicopter and transferred to Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, who confirmed his identity. 

This marks the 2nd fatality for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this year. This rescue was made possible through the assistance and collaboration of Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Inyo Search and Rescue Team, and the climbing community. 

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks 

These two parks, which lie-side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, serve as a prime example of nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Nearly 2 million visitors from across the U.S. and the world visit these parks for the world’s largest trees (by volume), grand mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and more. Learn more at