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Stranded, Exceeding Abilities

On July 13, Eric Lougee, with two years of climbing experience, took his cousin, Donald Lougee (33), to Cannon Cliff for what Donald thought was to be an introductory climbing lesson. After a short lesson, the two men started up Lakeview. When Donald realized that they were headed for the top he objected, but his cousin insisted on continuing. Eric Lougee reached the top of the Old Man’s head in the late afternoon. Donald was unable to climb the final crux flake, 50 feet below the top.

Eric left Donald on the slab below the crux and went down the climbers’ trail to call for a rescue. Two rescuers reached the stranded climber at 2200. As one rescuer rappelled down to him, he saw climbing gear (protection and quick draws) in place in the exit corner, but no rope. The rope was in a pile at the beginners feet where he was sitting on the slab. The leader must have dropped the rope, either intentionally or by accident.


It is unfortunately fairly common for leaders to talk less experienced companions into climbing a route which is too difficult. In this case the beginner was not a willing companion. His first words to the rescuer were, “I told him I didn’t want to do this. I told him!”

A more experienced leader could have helped his partner to the top in one of several ways. He could have hauled him using a Z pulley. He could have used his own weight as a counterbalance to help the second up the crux. He could have tied foot loops in his (the leader’s) end of the rope, lowered those loops and anchored that end of the rope so that the second could climb the loops. He could have rappelled with the beginner to the brushy ledge below the Old Man’s head and then bushwhacked north to meet the climber’s trail. He could have taught his partner how to prussik before taking him onto a big cliff like Cannon. (Source: George Hurley)