American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Bad Weather, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

STRANDED, BAD WEATHER

California, Yosemite Valley

On February 8, 1981, Dan Abend stopped SAR Ranger Bruce McKeeman about 8:30 a.m. in Lower Pines Campground and reported that two of his friends were climbing the South Face of Washington Column. Abend wanted to know what the weather forecast was and what to do about his friends since he did not think they were prepared for snow. McKeeman told Abend that the forecast was for four days of rain and/snow with the snow line at 6,000 feet and that if his friends were not prepared for snow, he should yell up to them and tell them to rappel off the route. Abend said that he would do that. At approximately 4:15 p.m., Abend came into the Valley Ranger Office and reported that his friends were not down from the climb. Rangers Jim Martin and McKeeman interviewed Abend and learned the following: On February 7, Abend had hiked up the Snow Creek Trail but could not get to the top of Washington Column because of deep snow. On February 8 at 10:30 a.m., Abend saw his partners Tucker Tech (22) and David Hirsch (21) three pitches from the top of the climb and yelled up to them that they should rappel off the climb because of the weather and that they could not get down by the Snow Creek Trail because of the deep snow. Tech and Hirsch yelled back that they were going to finish the climb. Abend told the rangers that Tech and Hirsch had down jackets, wool sweaters, one rain coat, three hammocks, one rain fly, canvas pants, tennis shoes, climbing shoes, down sleeping bags, and one head lamp. Abend said that they did not have a stove or matches. Abend also stated that they did not discuss their plans for a descent route. Martin and McKeeman told Abend to give the climbers some time to get down and to let them know if they returned. The rangers also told Abend to contact them on February 9 at noon. It was decided to give Tech and Hirsch all day on February 9 to return from the climb, unless reports were received of cries for help. On the 9th, McKeeman checked the climbing route and North Dome gully with binoculars with negative results. In the evening, the rangers decided to start a search effort at first light on the 10th. At 7:15 a.m. on the 10th, a ground team started up Indian Canyon. At 8:50 a.m., a second team started an air search with a Lemoore NAS helicopter. The air team spotted Tech and Hirsch about ¼ mile west of Indian Canyon and evacuated them about 10:15 a.m. The ground team was flown out about 10:45 a.m. (Source: Bruce McKeeman, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

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