American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Exposure, Bad Weather, Inadequate Equipment, Darkness, Inexperience – California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1978

EXPOSURE, BAD WEATHER, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, DARKNESS, INEXPERIENCE—California, Yosemite Valley. The following report was given by Larry Day (26) and Donald Evans (23) following their rescue, during which Jack Dorn (30)—a member of the Yosemite Rescue Team — lost his life.

Day and Evans left their tent at 5:30 a.m. on May 22 to start the approach of the climb of Yosemite Buttress. Both stated that they had discussed taking rain gear. Evans did throw in a rain jacket, two oranges, and a bag of gorp. Day was wearing a cotton T-shirt with a long-sleeved cotton shirt over it, cotton pants and tennis shoes as well as “EB” climbing shoes. Evans was wearing a cotton turtleneck and cotton pants with a wool cap. Evans also had tennis shoes as well as “EBs.” Each carried one glove for belaying. Climbing equipment: two 11mm 165-foot climbing ropes, a rack of hex’s and stoppers, 12 slings and two prussiks.

Day’s climbing experience included four to five years of climbing in Boulder, Colorado, Rocky Mountains; Granite Mountain, Arizona; Seneca Rock, West Virginia; and Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Although Day was a steady 5.9 climber and leader, he had done only short routes with the longest being Royal Arches in Yosemite (13 pitches). Other leads included the first pitch of the Gripper and Reeds Direct. Day had no experience with direct aid.

Evans had been in Yosemite for approximately six weeks and started climbing upon his arrival. Although Evans had done several 5.8 leads (including Sunnyside jam crack and Bishops Terrace) he had done no long climbs and was also unfamiliar with direct aid. The longest climb he had followed was eight pitches. Evans had never jumarred.

Day stated that the approach to the climb was hard on both of them and they had been delayed by another party who climbed past them. Although the weather looked threatening when they finished the tenth pitch of the Yosemite Point Buttress putting them atop the “pedestal,” they decided to try for the top rather than rap down and descend through the boulders in the dark. Neither subject had a flashlight. Evans stated he was cold and tired upon reaching the top of the pedestal.

Day led the first pitch above the pedestal. Half way up it began to rain. Day had on the rain jacket leaving Evans with no protection from the rain and

spring weather. However, both were unprepared for an overnight bivouac and bad weather as well.

Once the weather turned bad, the two were almost immediately in trouble and became hypothermic, and when their rope was jammed they could not free it and called for help.

A rescue team was sent at 3:30 a.m. on an established trail up Yosemite Falls. All were experienced personnel and had been over the trail on many previous occasions. For unknown reasons, rescuer Jack Dorn stepped off the trail and slid 400) feet down a slab to his death.

The rescue of Day and Evans proceeded at daylight and a second recovery party was organized to retrieve Dorn’s body. Day and Evans were rescued and were able to walk down the trail after warming themselves and having some nourishment. Day’s and Evans’ situation was preventable and Jack Dorn’s death was an unbelievable tragedy. (Source: Tim Setnicka, Yosemite National Park.)

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