Big Weekend for Yosemite Search-and-Rescue*

halfdome.jpgBlogged in the desert deals in extremes — earthquakes, severe weather, remote landscapes prone to stark conditions. In this post, he transcribes what the Yosemite Search and Rescue team had to deal with last weekend, as reported by the National Park Service. I hope this weekend goes more smoothly for them!

Zodiac Route, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley – Park dispatch received a 911 transfer call from CHP on Saturday afternoon, reporting a request for the rescue of a climbing team on the Zodiac Route on El Capitan. The Korean climbers on the wall spoke no English, and a Korean climber/interpreter who was assisting SAR personnel spoke only limited English. Clarifying the situation was accordingly difficult, but it was eventually determined that the climbers wanted to be rescued simply because their haul bag rope was tangled and they couldn’t figure out a means to correct the problem. Following a careful evaluation of the situation, SAR staff declined to launch a rescue at that time. Cold, rainy weather engulfed El Capitan the next morning, though, raising the concerns of SAR personnel. Due to the team’s obvious inexperience and the ongoing poor weather, SAR staff continued to monitor the progress of this team until they completed the route three days later.

Cables Route, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley – On Sunday, the park received several 911 cell phone transfers regarding a person who’d slipped outside the cables on Half Dome and slid 100 to 150 feet down onto the blank face. He was lying precariously on the face, using only the friction of his body against the rock to stop him from falling more than 800 feet to the ground. A ranger and a SAR climbing team were immediately dispatched to the incident location. The Yosemite rescue/fire helicopter was unavailable, so a primary rescue team was put on standby to await the arrival of another helicopter to fly them to the shoulder of Half Dome. A helicopter from Sequoia/Kings Canyon responded to the request for mutual aid assistance and was the first available for the mission. Unfortunately, due to the time it took to free up a helicopter, more than two hours passed before technical rescuers were on scene. SAR technicians then repelled down to the man and rescued him. Although uninjured, he was treated for hypothermia at Yosemite Medical Center and later released.

There’s more, so if you’re looking for adventure, go visit both the post and his site.

*UPDATE — Somehow I overlooked this huge Yosemite story on “blogged in the desert,” about the accidental death near Bridalveil Falls of pioneering free climber Todd Skinner.  Here is the excellent New York Times obituary for him, and here’s an excerpt from it:

skinner.jpgIn 1988, using only their hands and feet to move upward, Mr. Skinner and his longtime climbing partner, Paul Piana, completed the first free ascent of the 3,600-foot Salathé Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite, a seminal achievement in American climbing.

“He proved that it was possible to free climb El Capitan,” Mr. Model said. “Now it’s common.”

Perhaps Mr. Skinner’s most renowned feat was his team’s free ascent, in 1995, of the East face of Trango Tower, also known as Nameless Tower, a 4,700-foot rock face in the Karakoram Range of the Himalayas in Pakistan. No one had tried to free climb it before.

Mr. Skinner and three climbing partners from Wyoming — Mr. Model, Jeff Bechtel and Mike Lilygren — spent 60 days at more than 18,000 feet and reached the peak of about 20,500 feet. Mr. Skinner described the expedition in a cover story for National Geographic in 1996.

“We faced serious objective dangers — avalanches, rock falls, we were trapped in hanging tents for days at a time,” Mr. Model said.

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