The climbers were closing in on the top of California's second-highest peak when they came upon the grisly discovery of what looked like a bone buried in a boulder field.
Closer inspection revealed a fractured human skull. Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner moved rocks aside and discovered an entire skeleton. It appeared to have been there long enough that all that remained were bones, a leather belt and a pair of leather shoes.
The discovery a week ago beneath Mount Williamson unearthed a mystery: Who was the unfortunate hiker? How did he or she die? Did the person have a partner? Were they ever reported injured, dead or missing?
The Inyo County Sheriff's Department doesn't have any of those answers yet. But it retrieved the remains Wednesday in the hopes of finding the identity and what happened. There's no evidence to suggest foul play, spokeswoman Carma Roper said.
"This is a huge mystery for us," Roper said.
The body was discovered Oct. 7 near a lake in the remote rock-filled bowl between the towering peaks of Mount Tyndall and Williamson, which rises to 14,374 feet (4,381 meters). The behemoth of a mountain looms large over the Owens Valley below and overshadows the former World War II Japanese internment camp at Manzanar.
Hofer and a friend had gone slightly off the trail-less route as they picked their way through boulders when they stumbled upon the shocking find.
"The average person who was hiking to Williamson wouldn't have gone the route we went because we were a little bit lost, a little bit off course," Hofer told The Associated Press. "So it made sense that nobody would have stumbled across the body."