Seven-year search for missing hiker may be over

Possessions belonging to missing hiker Fred Claassen, along with some human bones, were recovered from a remote area in Yosemite National Park over the Labor Day weekend.

Claassen, a Livermore resident, was last seen seven years ago on Aug. 1, 2003, as he headed into the Hoover Wilderness behind the Twin Lakes area west of Bridgeport on a solo backpack trip. He was 46 years old at the time, and an experienced backcountry traveler, according to Mono County Search and Rescue records.

Human bones, a blue backpack and several other items, including identification belonging to Claassen, were recovered Sept. 5 from an off-trail location above 10,000 feet elevation on Whorl Mountain, according to park officials. The recovery was done by Yosemite National Park SAR members.

Although it is assumed that the bones belong to Claassen, the park service would not confirm that the bones were Claassen’s, pending DNA testing. This means the issue is still under investigation, which limits the amount of information the park service is giving out at this time.
“We are pretty sure it is him, but without the DNA we cannot confirm it,” said Kari Cobb, a park service spokeswoman.

“If we were to be wrong, it could impact this investigation and others as well,” she said.
The DNA test results could take another six weeks to be released, she said.

Claassen was described by SAR members as a physically fit, experienced backpacker. He had a few more days off and was on a longer trip with his wife, Martha, when Martha had to head home. Claassen decided to take his last two days and get in a few more miles. When he did not return as scheduled, Martha Claassen called to begin the search.
The search for Claassen was one of the biggest search and rescue efforts in the Eastern Sierra and nearby Yosemite National Park areas, extending over several months (until winter snows prevented access) and involving as many as 300 personnel.