American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded — Yogi-Phobia, Unfamiliar With Equipment, California, Yosemite , Half Dome

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009


California, Yosemite, Half Dome

Janet (32) spent May 9 hanging out at the base of Half Dome while her friends made an ascent of the Regular NW Face route. They had camped there the night before and had suspended their food from a tree to keep it from animals. At mid-day a bear wandered into camp and began sniffing the food. Concerned about becoming lunch herself, Janet jumared up an old fixed line to the top of the first pitch.

Eventually the bear left, but when Janet tried to descend, she found that 30 feet of snow piled on the bottom of the rope over the winter had stretched the line too tight to attach her rappel device. Her friends were high on the face, not in position to help, and she was marginally dressed for a spring night on the wall at 7,000 feet. At 1730 Janet called the NPS.

Three SAR team members climbed the slab approach from Mirror Lake to the base of the wall, arriving at dusk. One ascended the fixed line, and then he and Janet rappelled on NPS ropes. They all descended the slabs to the Valley, including Janet, who had seen one bear too many.


Janet was a climber, but she may have lacked the experience to realize that she could jumar down the fixed line as well as up. Her party also may not have understood that hanging food in a tree is no longer permitted in the park. Bear canisters are required in Wilderness areas, although they aren’t necessary on a climbing route if the food is well beyond reach of Yogi. But watch out for ground squirrels (they free-solo 5.11) and ravens. Food storage requirements, other wilderness regulations, and Leave No Trace practices are all explained to climbers when they get their wilderness permit, which is required for camping at the base of Half Dome. (Source: John Dill, NPS Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

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