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California, Yosemite Valley

California, Yosemite Valley. On May 29th Richard Jack (age 28) and Peter Williamson (29) completed an ascent of the Grade V route on the Leaning Tower. On their descent they camped for the night at Bridalveil Creek. In the morning they prepared to cross the creek by having one man cross on foot while belayed. Then they would rig a Tyrolean traverse on which the packs and the second man could cross. Williamson removed his clothes, put on his swami belt and seat harness, tied in, and entered the water. He was rapidly swept away and under. Jack was unable to help. He tied off the belay line, attached a second line to it, and finally pulled Williamson’s body to shore. (Source: Peter Thompson.)

Analysis: The precise spot where Williamson entered the water is unknown, but for a mile above Bridalveil Falls the creek runs in excess of twenty knots. The water temperature is estimated to have been well below 50 degrees. The climbers could have chosen one of two other, unattractive descent routes: five miles of unpleasant bushwacking to the Glacier Point Road, or a rappel down the loose and dangerous Leaning Chimney. They knew the difficulties of these two routes. They did not appreciate the great hazards of river crossings.