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Stranded, Exceeding Abilities, Inadequate Protection, California, Yosemite Valley, Swan Slab


California, Yosemite Valley, Swan Slab

On April 27, 1992, at 1430, Karen Hoeppner telephoned NPS dispatch and reported that James Dziadulewicz had fallen while rock climbing on Swan Slab, and was injured on a ledge approximately 30 feet above the ground. I responded with Ranger Obernesser, picked up Hoeppner and located Dziadulewicz at 1440.

Dziadulewicz was on a ledge approximately 30 vertical feet above the ground. He was in a stable position, and said that he had injured his leg and scraped his hands. I assumed incident command while Ranger Obernesser climbed to Dziadulewicz and led the medical team. Ranger Ray arrived with a technical rescue team and supervised the technical rescue, in which Dziadulewicz was immobilized in a litter and lowered to the ground. Rescuers climbing to Dziadulewicz were required to be on belay or ascend a fixed rope due to the steep, exposed rock face, and rescuers were exposed to falling rock several times during the rescue. Dziadulewicz was transported to the Yosemite Medical Clinic, where he was diagnosed as having a fractured left tibia and severe abrasions to both hands and forearms.


At 1435 I interviewed Hoeppner at the accident scene. Hoeppner said that Dziadulewicz had been demonstrating basic rock climbing to her. She said that he had rappelled approximately 40 vertical feet down a rock face and was trying to climb back up when he fell. Hoeppner said she was not sure why he fell.

At 1630 I interviewed Dziadulewicz at the Yosemite Medical Clinic. He learned to climb from a friend and has never had any formal training. He said that approximately ten years ago, he rappelled a lot, and that he now climbs approximately ten times a year. He said the hardest routes he has ever climbed were following 5.8, and said he had only done that three or four times. Dziadulewicz said he has climbed in Yosemite a few times, but has never climbed on Swan Slab before. He had not done any significant routes in Yosemite, but had just “messed around” at the base of climbs that friends were doing. He didn’t have jumars with him and did not know what a prusik is.

Dziadulewicz described himself as a person who isn’t afraid of trying anything, and said he tends to “just go ahead and do it” without a lot of thought. He said he sometimes gets a little crazy and “goes to extremes,” and said he thought he’d gone too far today. He also said, “I’m not all that crazy about heights.” He said that he was hurrying to show her as much as possible about climbing in the short time they had left in Yosemite before leaving later in the day for southern California. He also said that he was trying to show off a little bit to impress Hoeppner with how easy climbing is and how much he knows about it.

He said he had just rappelled down a rock face approximately 40 feet (immediately above the ledge where he was found) and wanted to climb back up to show Hoeppner how to rappel. He said he saw an easy and apparently safe route up a chimney a short distance to the west, but said he didn’t feel like going out of his way because he was “feeling lazy.” Dziadulewicz said he decided to just climb back up his rappel rope, to show Hoeppner how easy it was. He said he clipped a carabiner to his harness and then clipped it around the rope, but realized that the freely-sliding carabiner provided no safety. Dziadulewicz said he climbed hand-over-hand back up to his rappel rope, but near the top, the rope was tight against the rock and he couldn’t get a grip on it. He said he then tried to descend hand-over-hand back down the rope, but part way down he tired and couldn’t continue, and his hands began to slide down the rope. Dziadulewicz said that after sliding approximately five feet, he let go, and slid uncontrollably the rest of the way down the face. He said he realized at the time that what he was doing was not the safest way to climb, but thought he could get away with it.

I cited Dziadulewicz for 36 CFR 2.34a4 (Disorderly Conduct— Creating a Hazardous Condition) with a mandatory court appearance. I recommended that Dziadulewicz make restitution for the $633.41 rescue cost to the Yosemite Mountain Safety Fund. (Source: David A. Brennan, SAR Ranger, Yosemite National Park)