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Two elderly hikers missing in California

Two climbers die in early season blizzard, many others rescued

An emergency worker assists in the rescue of a hiker stranded on the face of El Capitan.
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CNN's Rusty Dornin reports on the rescue of several hikers caught in a blizzard in Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park

(CNN) -- Two elderly hikers with more than 30 years of hiking experience were missing in California's Sequoia National Park late Thursday, two days after they were to have returned from their outing.

Temperatures are expected to reach the sub-zeros overnight.

The 70-year-old man and 66-year-old woman were the latest in a spate of hikers to become stranded in the California's Sierra Nevada range after an early season blizzard this week dumped heavy snow across the region.

A Japanese couple froze to death in Yosemite National Park, and 23 other hikers have been rescued in wilderness areas.

Authorities searched the southeast corner of Sequoia National Park for the missing couple, but their efforts were postponed after dark. Aerial and ground crews will resume searching early Friday.

The two were two days overdue from their venture around 11,000 feet. They left on October 12.

National Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said the couple is very well equipped and knew exactly what to bring for unexpected bad weather.

"They have over 30 years of hiking experience, but tonight the temperature is forecast to be 10 degrees below zero," Picavet said.

Elsewhere in Sequoia National Park, seven people were rescued Thursday around Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states at 14,497 feet, after being reported missing for several days.

One group of four hikers from the San Francisco Bay area was airlifted to safety after being spotted wandering the snow-packed forest of the mountain, Picavet said.

Two other men were spotted and rescued within 10 minutes of the first recovery, and a third man was found near Chicken Spring Lake.

"All seven people have been reunited with their friends and families in good condition," Picavet said.

In other areas of the Sierra Nevada range, rescue workers recovered the remains of a Japanese couple after the man and woman froze to death on the side of famous El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, officials said.

They were among six people stranded by the blizzard on the face of El Capitan, a virtually sheer 3,300-foot wall and a popular place for experienced mountain climbers.

Search crews rescued two climbers Thursday, authorities said. The remaining two stranded climbers will be assisted Friday.

The dead climbers were spotted a few hundred feet from the rim of the mountain by a group of hikers Tuesday, according to U.S. Park Ranger spokesman Scott Gediman.

On Wednesday, a helicopter crew determined that both climbers were not moving, and recovery efforts were called off due to severe wind, Gediman said. The couple had been on the mountain for six days.

Among the various other rescues Thursday:

  • In the southern portion of the Sierra National Forest, six people were rescued Thursday after they were reported missing by their families Sunday.
  • John Baumgarner, 29, and Shana McCarthy, 24, were airlifted from the Dinkey Lake Wilderness about 40 miles east of Fresno, California, according to Fresno County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Kevin Peters.

    The couple, along with their dog, was on a four-day hike but got lost in the blizzard, which dumped up to 4 feet of snow Monday.

    Thursday afternoon, two missing father-son pairs were brought to safety by helicopter after being stranded in a remote 9,400-foot-high snow-packed region of the forest since Sunday.

    Paul Bargetto, 46, his son Michael, 20, and Frank Horath, 44, and his son Dominic, 16, were described as experienced hikers who were well equipped to cope with cold weather.

  • In the Ansel Adams Wilderness area south of Yosemite, four men were rescued early Thursday after being stranded for six days in heavy snow and freezing temperatures.
  • Tom Peacock, 73, his son Jeff, 45, and their friends Doug Schneider, 47, and Britt "Mack" Jefferson, 57, were airlifted to safety, according to Madera County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Erica Stuart.

    "It took us 20 minutes to walk 100 yards and we were so exhausted we could hardly move," said Jeff Peacock.

    His father said the two of them imagined the worst: "You have all kinds of dreams about what's going to happen to you if you don't make it. What happens to your family."

    CNN's Stan Wilson, Rusty Dornin and Michael Cary contributed to this report.

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