California authorities said a Texas man fell to his death last week while attempting to hike Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States.
According to the Inyo County Sheriff's Department, Saulo Escalante arrived at Mount Whitney on April 15 intending to reach the summit in a day. By Sunday, Escalante — who traveled to the state from Conroe, Texas — was reported missing.
The department sent out a search and rescue team the next day, and on Tuesday, officials obtained a warrant to review cell phone records to help pinpoint Escalante's location. The team used a helicopter to find Escalante's body later that day, authorities said.
They believe Escalante, 36, slipped and fell at around 11,600 feet in elevation while traversing a snowy "chute," a term generally meant to describe an inclined plane or sloping channel.
"A Chinook helicopter was dispatched to investigate the location and was able to locate the subject deceased south of the main Whitney trail at approximately 11,600' elevation in a steep, snowy, north-facing chute," the sheriff's department said in a statement. "The subject had apparently been ascending this chute when he slipped and fell."
Escalante appeared to be an avid adventurer and frequently posted pictures of his trips to social media. This year, he posted to Instagram a series of videos from a trip to Puerto Rico that showed him bike riding and swimming on the Caribbean island.
On Wednesday, Escalante's sister, Marlene, announced his death on his Instagram page.
"To all of Saulo's friends, it is with a heavy heart that I share the news that my brother passed away," she wrote. "Thank you Lord for allowing the [search and rescue] to find him and bring him down the mountain. Saulo passed away doing what he loved."
Authorities told Marlene they believe Escalante died instantly from his fall and "didn't suffer," she said.
"LOVE YOU SO MUCH MY LITTLE BROTHER YOU WERE ENJOYING LIFE TO THE FULLEST," Marlene added. "YOU WILL ALWAYS BE IN MY HEART! MAY THE LORD HAVE YOU IN HIS KINGDOM."
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Mount Whitney, located in Central California, is a popular climbing destination for avid mountaineers and climbers. It is the tallest mountain in the U.S. outside of Alaska. More than 16,000 applications for a permit to hike up Whitney were submitted in 2019, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
In November, a 34-year-old mother spent two nights in freezing temperatures on Mount Whitney after falling about 100 feet. She was later rescued and died of her injuries shortly after.