After 6 weeks, still no sign of Marine who tried to ski the Sierra High Route in winter

Search parties are still looking for a Marine officer who disappeared while on a 195-mile solo ski trip in the High Sierra, but after more than a month, hope of a rescue is dimming.

First Lt. Matthew Kraft, 24, began trekking the rugged Sierra High Route on Feb. 23 near the Kearsarge Pass, which leads north into Kings Canyon National Park. He planned to complete his journey in 10 days and told both his family and the Marines that he expected to arrive in Bridgeport on March 4 or 5, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.

But he apparently never made it there.

The search for Kraft began March 4 after his father called the Mono County Sheriff’s Office to report that he had not heard from his son. For more than a week, 13 agencies were involved in a massive search combing an area larger than Rhode Island.

Rescuers found evidence of dozens of avalanches along the route but no sign of Kraft. The search was significantly scaled back March 17, due to “backcountry snow instability and weather issues, including high winds,” according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. Much of the area was deemed impassable because of heavy snow and rock falls.

However, a limited search for Kraft will continue until the Marine is found, officials said.

The rental Jeep Wrangler that Kraft used to access a trailhead to the 11.709-foot-high Kearsarge Pass was found near Grays Meadows campground above Independence on March 8.

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Kraft, who’s from Washington, Conn., is serving with the 1st Battalion/7th Marines at Twentynine Palms and is based out of the 1st Marine Division headquartered at Camp Pendleton.

He was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 2016 and graduated from the Infantry Officer Course and Winter Mountain Leaders Course, considered to be two of the most rigorous training courses in the Marine Corps, officials said.

Marine Corps officials are determined to find him, Capt. Paul Gainey, with the 1st Marine Division, told the Orange County Register.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Read Mike Moffitt’s latest stories and send him news tips at moffitt@sfgate.com

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This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Missing-Marine-High-Sierra-avalanche-ski-Kearsarge-13760090.php.

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