American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Darkness—Late Start, Dehydration, Hypothermia (Carried No Water), Inadequate Clothing, Creating a Hazardous Condition, California, Yosemite Valley, Manure Pile Buttress, Nutcracker

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 1996

DARKNESS—LATE START, DEHYDRATION, HYPOTHERMIA (CARRIED NO WATER), INADEQUATE CLOTHING, CREATING A HAZARDOUS CONDITION

California, Yosemite Valley, Manure Pile Buttress, Nutcracker

On March 30, at 2310, Reza Tabrizi (22) called NPS dispatch from the Camp 4 pay phone to report that his two climbing partners, Mark Bradford (23) and Sarah Rich (20), were stranded by darkness at the top of Manure Pile Buttress.

While driving back to the Manure Pile parking area with Ranger Mike Archer, Tabrizi stated the following: The three had reached the top of Nutcracker after dark, with no lights. The way down was known to be dangerous in the dark, so he had left the others on top with a rope and a rack of hardware while he rappelled alone with the other rope down the west side of the buttress. The time was about 1930. On the last rappel he had accidentally rappelled off the end of his rope, falling 20 feet to the ground, but he was not hurt.

He then got three unidentified visitors in Camp 4 to assist him with lights. However, when they arrived at Manure Pile, they found that none of their headlamps worked, and they also couldn’t make voice contact with Johnson and Rich. So Tabrizi had driven back to Camp 4 and contacted the NPS. He stated that Johnson and Rich were not injured when he left them, but that they were without warm clothes, food, or water, and that Rich lacked her asthma medication. (The low temperature that night was 31° F.)

While another ranger tried to contact the party with a loudspeaker, Archer and Tabrizi hiked up the regular descent route. Just after midnight they heard Johnson answering their calls. He stated that he and Rich were on top of the climb and were unhurt but very cold, and that Rich was having difficulty breathing due to her asthma. Because of Richs condition, Archer asked that an ambulance and additional rescuers stand by at the parking area.

Archer and Tabrizi reached Johnson and Rich at about 0020. Rich stated she was breathing more easily, but Archer requested that rangers Keith Losber and Chris Robinson (both paramedics) come to the scene to accompany Rich down. She was weak and dizzy, probably due to lack of food, so she was belayed down the descent. Everyone reached the ground without incident.

Analysis

Tabrizi and Johnston had each climbed big walls and had climbed Nutcracker previously. Rich was a novice, with no leading experience. This was her first multi-pitch climb.

They had begun climbing the route about 1330. It was near dusk by the time they reached the end of the second pitch. They had decided to continue instead of retreating, although they knew they could retreat with the equipment they had. It was completely dark by the time Johnston led the last (5th) pitch.

The party did not take water, headlamps, or warm clothes because “it was only the Nutcracker.” Rich did not carry her medication, assuming she would not need it.

Tabrizi and Bradford were cited to mandatory court appearances for Disorderly Conduct/Creating a Hazardous Condition, 36 CFR 2.34 (a) (4). The NPS recommended to the court that they each pay $400, half the cost of the rescue. (Source: Mike Archer, NPS Ranger)

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