American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Darkness—Failure to Turn Back, Inadequate Clothing and Equipment, California, Yosemite Valley, Royal Arches

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999


California, Yosemite Valley, Royal Arches

On September 15 at 2200, NPS dispatch received a report of climbers who were yelling for help on the Royal Arches Route. Rangers Keith Lober and John Dill and two SAR technicians responded on the call. Lighting systems, spotting scope and a loud hailer were utilized to identify the problem.

The two climbers, Andy Sneddon (35) and Debbie Hughes (35) were uninjured but had become disoriented in the darkness during the rappels. The team was unable to locate their stranded rappel anchor stations. This left them stranded near the ends of their ropes but still securely tied to anchors.

The climbers were left on the ledge for the night. No attempts were made to retrieve Sneddon and Hughes because the night was quite warm and they were not in danger of falling. Early the next morning, Ranger Keith Lober and SAR technician Werner Braun, risked their lives while they were climbing up to rescue Sneddon and Hughes. The two climbers were brought down without incident.


This is the third of the Royal Arches descent incidents. Again, turning back earlier, having warm clothing, and knowing how to prusik came into play. (Source: Report from Keith Lober and John Dill, SAR Rangers, Yosemite National Park)

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