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Hypothermia, Exhaustion, Inadequate Equipment, Inexperience — California, Yosemite Valley


California, Yosemite Valley

On June 29, 1982, at 1000, friends of Koji Sekine and Tsutomu Tagusari, two Japanese climbers, came to the Ranger Office and reported that they were overdue from the northwest face of Half Dome. They had been expected down early Monday, June 28. As it had begun raining Monday morning, the two were concerned about their friends’ welfare. They stated that Sekine and Tagusari did not have sleeping bags or rain gear and that they had little food.

At the time their absence was reported, it was raining hard in Yosemite Valley and there was little that could be done. It stopped raining about 1230 and two rangers with binoculars and a telescope were sent to Mirror Lake to try and stop the climbers. About the same time, a party from the trail crew camp on Sunrise Crest was sent to the base of the wall to try to make contact with the climbers. About 1530, the clouds lifted sufficiently so that the two climbers could be seen on Big Sandy Ledge. With the help of their friends who spoke Japanese and a vehicle PA, voice contact was established. They signaled that they needed to be rescued.

Shortly after 1700, the park helicopter was dispatched and a rescue party airlifted to the top of Half Dome. A Sunnyside Rescue Site climber, Larry Zulim, was lowered down to the Japanese on two fixed ropes. While they were belayed on one rope, Sekine and Tagusari jumared up the other. Zulim then jumared up. All personnel were back on the valley floor by 2045. (Source: Gary Colliver, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)


In an interview with Sekine and Tagusari, conducted with the help of Ranger Jim Tucker who speaks a little Japanese, it was learned that the two climbers expected “sun all time in Yosemite.” They started the climb with the intent of doing it in one to one and a quarter days, taking three meals of food, no rain gear or sleeping bags and mostly a free-climbing rack. At the time of rescue, they were very cold, hungry and weak; they thought they would have been in very poor condition after another night on the face. (Source: Gary Colliver, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)