VENTURA — A man who usually jogged 10 miles a day and once went on a 100-mile hiking trip with his wife, died of hypothermia Friday on an annual trek to the Sierra Nevada.
Estel Wilgus of Ventura was 63.
"He jogged every day, even at lunch," said one of his sons, Craig. "This is such a shock."
Wilgus, a retired electronics engineer at Point Mugu, and a friend, Jim Fagnant, 61, of Camarillo, were on a hiking trip in Kings Canyon National Park west of Bishop when a sudden storm hit Thursday.
The Inyo County's Sheriff's Department said a 2 feet of snow hit the 12,000-foot elevation area where the two were camping. The snow soaked their sleeping bags and gear.
The men, who had made this trip every year for about 15 years, were on their way out, but Wilgus was suffering extensively because of the cold and could not continue walking, according to his family.
Fagnant told his friend to stay put in a tent while he went to go for help. But when he returned with a rescue team, it looked as though Wilgus wouldn't make it.
Wilgus was taken to Northern Inyo Hospital, where he died at about 2:30 p.m., officials said.
Shelah, Wilgus' wife, said her husband was "the best partner she had in all her life."
The 59-year-old graphic designer said she met Wilgus for the first time in the 1970s at a swimming pool by the Camarillo Airport. The two didn't meet again until the 1980s, then lived together for 16 years and eventually got married in 1990.
The couple took a 100-mile trip in England one year, she said, and she and her husband also enjoyed French folk dancing.
His children from another marriage, Mike, 41, of Corona, Calif.; Nicky Marley, 37, of Hawaii; and Craig, 36, of Texas, recounted stories of his handiwork and pointed around his apartment to show off the handmade wooden shelves and tables he had crafted.
"He was in such good shape," Mike said. "We thought he'd be around longer than any one of us."
In addition to his wife and three children, Wilgus is survived by five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Sunset Plan Funeral Directors in Westlake Village. In lieu of flowers, family members request that donations be sent to the volunteer search and rescue team the Inyo County Sheriff's Posse, P.O. 982 Bishop, CA, 93514.