American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded—Unable to Find Descent Route, California, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Terrace

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995


California, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Terrace

On October 30, 1994, John Dunn (22) and Dan Cappellini (25), both of Ft. Collins, CO, climbed to the Oasis on Glacier Point via Cold Fusion, Point Beyond, and Lucifer’s Ledge. They reached the Oasis just at dusk, so they bivouacked there rather than descend in the dark. They were fairly well equipped, having brought extra clothing, headlamps, food, and water, nevertheless they spent a chilly night.

The next morning they tried to find the descent route, with the help of the topo in the guide book (Yosemite Climbs—Free Climbs, Reid, 1994). The topo states, “Walk as far west on the Terrace as you can without having to rope up.” Since they had to rope up almost immediately to traverse west from the Oasis, they thought they must be on the Terrace. In fact the Terrace is the complex of large, vegetated ledges a few hundred yards further west.

After spending seven hours fruitlessly searching for a way down, they realized they would have to spend another cold night on the wall, with less food and water this time. At 1330 they called for help.

When the rangers arrived at the base of the Apron they could see Dunn and Cappellini a couple of hundred feet above the Terrace. Using a PA and telescope for communications, they determined the problem. They guided the pair down to the Terrace and then west 200 yards or so, to where the descent routes start.

Because we didn’t know the condition of the bolted rappel route (see guidebook), we directed them further west to the low angle descent ramps. Meanwhile four rescue team members started climbing the ramps to meet them, in case they ran into trouble.

At 1730 the two groups met on the ramps. Dunn and Cappellini were doing fine, and everyone was down by 1830.


To avoid confusion on the descent route, identify it before you climb, ask other climbers and check the book, but most of all look it over carefully. (Source: John Dill, NPS Ranger)

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