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Getting rescued off El Capitain
Trip Report

Getting rescued off El Capitain


Page Type: Trip Report

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.73420°N / 119.6367°W

Object Title: Getting rescued off El Capitain

Date Climbed/Hiked: Oct 11, 2004


Page By: bigwallt

Created/Edited: Feb 23, 2005 /

Object ID: 169881

Hits: 3179 

Page Score: 71.06%  - 1 Votes 

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This is a trip report I wrote for Supertopo.com back in Nov 2004 about getting rescued. Some of the content is in reference
to some of the people that post there. You should however understand what my partner and I went through, Enjoy.

I usually don't spray about my climbs on the internet but this climb seems to justify a trip report. I apologize for poor writing skills but I think you will get the jest of the journey. Erik Erikson and I had intentions on climbing the Sea of Dreams. So over the first two days after arriving in the valley, we fixed the first three pitches. On the morning we were to blast, we awoke to slightly cooler unstable weather. Both of us having experienced bad weather before on the Captain, (most know Erik’s and Fish’s epic on Native) we became apprehensive about blasting right into unstable weather. We agreed that if we had to wait a day or possible two to blast, we would not have enough time to complete a task as large as the Sea. So we pulled our ropes. Yes we saw “Pass the Pitons Pete” and his partner Tom at the base and probably weren’t real talkative, I mean after all we were bailing, we were not feeling real proud. (Sorry Pete and Tom) After pulling our ropes it seemed the weather that spooked us had cleared. I personally questioned to myself if we should have acted so quickly, but it was done, and we had already picked the new less committing project “Octopussy” so I just focused on that. Ironically what we were initially trying to avoid, would come back around to give us a pretty good beating. We planed on 5 days, as we left the ground on Monday Oct. 11. Perfect weather allowed us to climb in t-shirts all week. We climbed in true vacation style, not starting to climb to early, as well as not stopping to late. This brought us one pitch below Thanksgiving ledge on Never Never Land (Octopussy joins Never Never Land at pitch 15) on the evening of Saturday Oct. 16. We set up our ledge with no fly, went about our evening routine of eating, drinking and overall just making sure we were Safe. By 11 P.M. that evening the skies had changed. We were now faced with getting out of our sleeping bags and getting the fly put on the ledge. This turns out to be inconvenient struggle, but we pull it off. Then as if on cue it started to rain the minute I climbed in. Erik a veteran of over 40 El Cap routes and with nearly 20 to my credit, we figured we had a rain day ahead us. After all we had seen this type of activity before, specially this time of year, no big deal, right? (I should back up just a little hear, when we were on the ground I contracted a small splotch of poison oak on my ass. I noticed it as we left the ground, and brought it to Erik’s attention. It wasn’t bad enough for me not to climb, but irritating none the less. ) Well this is the beginning of what everybody is now aware of as a truly brutal storm. Mother nature was really pissed off at something, and we were in her way. The storm packed unrelenting fury for nearly 4 continuous days. I felt like we were in a row boat in the middle of north Atlantic hurricane. We had the best ledge money could buy ,a A5 cliff cabana with a 4 season fly. The fly is more of a tent that encompasses the whole ledge. Even though I truly believe that this system attributed to our survival, more than once Erik and I thought the winds were going shred it apart right in front of our eyes. We had not a single dry item to our name. Everything was wet, we slept in a puddle. It precipitated water the first 2 days and snow the second 2 days. The snow accumulation eventually looked to be about 31/2 feet by the time we got on the summit. Oh Yea remember the oak, well by the second day of the storm in had taken over 50% of my body. My inner thigh’s, my ass, my crotch, stomach area, arms, it even started up my neck. I scratched my ears raw. I would be lying if I said it was anything other than taxing on my brain battling the storm and the oak. We initially declined any rescue efforts. But with my spreading infestation, no food and no sure deal weather we would make the summit, Erik and I now had to discus the unspeakable, getting help. We new fellow climbers had probably lost their lives, this didn’t sit easy with me. My oak was turning pretty serious so I played devil’s advocate on our decision. It was an emotional, difficult, discussion for both of us. In the evening of Wednesday Oct.20 we agreed to letting YOSAR help us out. When we woke up on the morning Oct. 21 it was a blue bird day, so the night before was the coldest of them all. Things weren’t wet anymore they were frozen. Once again we questioned our decision to accepting help getting off. We asked the park service the conditions of the 1000’ or so of 4th class slabs we had ahead of us. They were in no shape for any climbing we were assured. We wanted to climb the last technical pitch of the route and have them assist us with the snow loaded slabs above. You know maybe leave us a couple deli sandwiches and beer as well. No way! What were we thinking? The Park service let us know, it was all or nothing. This leads to more heavy debate between Erik and I. We finally fully accepted YOSAR”s services. By about 1 o’clock in the afternoon climbing ranger Lincoln Else repelled to our station and gave us our way out. I want everyone to know, Link is a class act, whoever questions his integrity as a climber or a ranger is an idiot. As I struggled with jugging the 1200’ of fixed line to get off, I was at peace with the fact that I needed assistance getting off the Captain this time. We had know idea of the media frenzy following the storm and rescues. After the chopper picked us up on top and flew us to the meadow below, one of the helicopter techs’s brought to our attention the 20 or so media vans below. He said “see all those media guys, they all want to talk to you” It was overwhelming and I probably didn’t handle it as well as I should have. One camera got my middle finger. I felt the media was there to sensationalize the unfortunate dismay of our fellow fallen climbers. That bothered the hell out of me. I wasn’t going to feed to that. Thinking back though, probably the adult thing to do would be to at least give a short statement, OH WELL. Everyone I had contact with during this rescue effort was truly concerned about our well being. I questioned in my mind how we would be handled by the park service once at their mercy. Was I going to be charged for this rescue? Was I still going to have hiked down? I had known idea what to expect. It was nothing less than first class, Thanks YOSAR thank you!!! One six pack Mickey’s big mouth, One large bag of sun chips $16.32, another six pack Fat Tire Ale $10.50, medium rare tri tip with all the fixing’s and a glass of merlot $45.00,one night stay Yosemite lodge $170.00 Over indulging in your previous days fantasy’s… PRICELESS!!! I think I’ll go surfing for awhile.


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Rick BTrip Report Comment

Rick B

Hasn't voted

Interesting read! But what's "poison oak" exactly and how do you get it?


Posted Jan 24, 2006 2:03 am

desainmeTrip Report Comment


Hasn't voted

This is one of 3 versions of a poison sumac plant. They all contain urushiol- a substance causing your skin to break out. The first two are named for other plants because of leaf shape. The shape of the leaf of the tree is the most mundane. Most literature say the tree is the most dangerous of the three poison sumacs. Most folks rank thes in terms of reaction as follows Poison Ivy < Poison Oak < Poison Sumac Tree.
Posted Jan 24, 2006 7:39 am

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