American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Dehydration, Exhaustion, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986


California, Yosemite Valley

On August 4,1985, about 1000, Mike Corbet reported to John Dill at the Park SAR Cache, that they had heard Chuck Goldmann (35), who was soloing the Dihedral Wall on El Capi- tan, yelling for water since the previous evening, when he had about two liters left. Ranger Russell and I took size-up gear and communicated with Goldmann at 1030, and determined that he was not sick or injured, had water remaining, and could continue his climb if he got water. Goldmann also indicated that if someone reached him with ropes, he would prefer to jumar out rather than continue climbing.

Rescue site climbers Grant Hiskes, Mike Corbet and Avery Tischner volunteered to take water and ropes to Goldmann. NPS SAR supplied them with the necessary ropes, a park radio and miscellaneous items of equipment, and transported them to the summit of El Capitan with the park contract helicopter about 1325. The three rescuers rappelled the West Buttress to Thanksgiving Ledge, traversed the ledge above Goldmann, descended to him with water and fixed ropes, and they all reached the summit of El Capitan about 2030, where they spent the night.

The four climbers descended the East Ledges and hiked down to the road on August 5, and were picked up at 1000. (Source: Gary Colliver, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)


In an interview at the SAR cache later than day, Goldmann said he had spent two days planning and packing for his solo attempt on the Dihedral Wall, and took plenty of food, warm clothing and rain gear, and four and a half liters of water—plenty, he thought, for the seven days he planned to be on the wall. On the evening of his third day, at the top of the tenth pitch (he said he planned on making three pitches a day), he discovered that one of his water bottles had been leaking, and was almost empty. Goldmann said that at this point he was feeling very strong, the climbing was going well, and that with just a little rationing of his water he would have no trouble finishing the climb. He said he did not really consider going down, that he was very much “into” the climb, and wanted to finish it.

During the next three days on rationed water, Goldmann said he became progressively weaker, and climbed slower, getting only halfway up the 16th pitch by the end of the sixth day, when he began calling for water. Corbet and Tischner, not far away on the Heart Route, heard his cries for water, and descended the next morning to report that Goldmann was in trouble.

Goldmann, in retrospect, said he thought his decision to continue was poor, and that if faced with a similar circumstance, he would consider his options and the consequences more carefully. Descent, he said, would have been relatively easy from the top of the tenth pitch, but almost impossible from the top of the 17th. (Source: Gary Colliver, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

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