Climber saved from El Cap

By Union Democrat staff October 24, 2012 07:51 am

A 40-year-old Canadian rock climber stranded on the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park was rescued Monday.

The park issued a statement Tuesday detailing the “high angle, high risk” rescue.

The British Columbia man and his 24-year-old climbing partner from Ontario, Canada, set out Oct. 14 to ascend one of El Capitan’s climbing routes called the “Muir Wall” and were due to reach the summit Sunday.

Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said the park would not release either man’s names because the 24-year-old was not part of the rescue and the 40-year-old’s injuries were revealed, preventing the park from releasing his name under medical privacy laws.

The 2,900-foot “Muir Wall” is known as one of the greatest natural climbing lines on El Capitan, a large granite monolith in Yosemite Valley that attracts rock climbing enthusiasts from around the world.

According to the park, the 24-year-old lead climber reached the summit of El Capitan on Sunday night, just before a large storm was predicted to bring several inches of snow to the area.

His 40-year-old climbing partner was forced to spend the night about 230 feet below the summit due to the impending bad weather and jammed rope.

At about 2 a.m., the dangling climber tried to deploy a rainfly over his hanging tent system, called a “portaledge,” to provide shelter from the rain and snow, but slipped out during the attempt and fell about 15 feet, the park statement said.

The man was able to get himself back to the portaledge, but was unable erect the rainfly, the park stated.

During the night, the area received about four to six inches of snow with temperatures dipping to the mid-20s, according to the park.

Park rangers were notified about the situation midday Monday and a ground team consisting of SAR crew member Matt Othmer and park rangers Aaron Smith and Ben Doyle immediately hiked to the summit of El Capitan to rescue the climber.

A helicopter could not be secured to assist because of unfavorable weather conditions, the Yosemite statement noted.

Rescue attempts were slowed by snow, wind and ice, but the team eventually reached the summit at around 4 p.m. Smith was then lowered by rope about 230 feet to the climber, who was suffering from exhaustion and mild hypothermia.

Smith attached ropes to the distressed climber and a system of pulleys was used to hoist the man to the summit.

After warming the rescued climber, the team descended via hiking and rappelling and reached the valley floor about 10 p.m.

The park said the man was transported to a local hospital and is in good condition.