American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Climbing Solo, Inadequate Equipment, Inexperience, California, Yosemite National Park, Cathedral Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1990

FALL ON ROCK, CLIMBING SOLO, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, INEXPERIENCE

California, Yosemite National Park, Cathedral Peak

On August 22, 1989, Pat Teague at the Valley SAR cache received a telephoned report of a climbing accident on Cathedral Peak. According to the reporting party, Christopher Wear (44), his companion, identified as Yohosame Cameron (20), had fallen about 20 meters and suffered a head injury and an injury to his lower right leg. Wear reported that Cameron’s leg was “hanging by a thread.”

Ranger Hargis was in the vicinity of Crane Flat in the Toulumne ambulance. Hargis went to the Crane Flat heliport and was flown to Cathedral Peak. Because of high winds and impending darkness, the ship could not land and Hargis returned to Crane Flat.

Four members of the Toulumne Meadows rescue team, and Rangers Beardsley and Koegler hiked to Cathedral Peak and arrived at 2300. Another three rescuers left the Cathedral Lakes trailhead at 2230, and eight additional rescue personnel from Yosemite Valley left the trailhead at 0200. The weather forecast for the following day indicated the possibility of high winds. It was not certain that the victim could be evacuated by helicopter. Consequently, equipment and personnel necessary for a lowering and carryout operation were at the scene.

Ranger Beardsley, Park Medic, rendered medical assistance. The following morning a rescue helicopter from Lemoore Naval Air Station flew to the scene and, with a break in the clouds and diminishing winds, was able to winch the victim from Cathedral Peak at 0900. (Source: Joanne Gill, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

Analysis

An interview with Christopher Wear, the reporting party, indicated that he was climbing with Richard Ludwig (25) and victim Yohosame Cameron. According to Wear, he and Cameron were “free-solo” climbers and had never used ropes. Wear said that he had been climbing three or four years and he thought that Cameron had been climbing two or three years. Wear said that Ludwig had been climbing for three years and sometimes used ropes, but on the day of the accident, the party had no climbing equipment other than shoes. Wear reported that the party had started climbing the 5.6 route on Cathedral Peak that morning at 0900, and reached the summit about 1700. Wear said that he, Ludwig and Cameron were descending the northwest side of Cathedral Peak and free climbing small blocks and arêtes on their way down. Cameron fell while attempting to climb a block. Ludwig stayed with Cameron while Wear ran down the trail for help. According to Ludwig, he, Cameron, and Wear were “autonomous,” widely separated, and not really climbing together since they had no need for ropes. (Source: Joanne Gill, Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

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