Two hikers ascending California's second-tallest peak were a bit lost and bit off course when they came across a startling find: a full human skeleton. Now authorities in Inyo County are trying to solve what one calls a "huge mystery"—just who died below Mt. Williamson? And when? One of the hikers, Tyler Hofer, tells the Los Angeles Times that he and his climbing partner first spotted what they assumed to be an animal bone sticking out from rocks. But when they moved other rocks away, "the entire skeleton was laying there intact," he says. "The only thing remaining were the shoes and the leather belt around it." Hofer, a pastor, tells the AP that it appears the person had been buried deliberately; the skeleton was face-up with its arms crossed over its chest.
"It wasn't in a position of distress or curled up," Hofer says of the Oct. 7 discovery. "It was definitely a burial because it was very strategically covered with rocks." The Inyo County Sheriff's Department managed to retrieve the body, which was near a lake in a bowl below the peaks of Mt. Williamson and Mt. Tyndall. Sheriff's officials say the body, which could have been there for decades, does not sync with any missing person's report. Nor did they find any obvious signs of foul play. One hope is that DNA from the remains will lead to an identification, but so far no luck. Says a sheriff's department spokeswoman: "This is a huge mystery for us." (In the Himalayas, a similar tale but with a different ending.)