American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Climbing Alone, Inadequate Equipment, Not on Any Known Route, California, Yosemite National Park, Marmot Done

  • Accident Reports
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  • Publication Year: 2010

STRANDED, CLIMBING ALONE, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT, NOT ON ANY KNOWN ROUTE

California, Yosemite National Park, Marmot Dome

Park dispatch received a cellphone call from climber Daniel Susman (20s) around 10 a.m. on July 15th, in which Susman reported that he’d become ledged-out while scrambling on a dome near Merced Lake and that he’d need assistance getting off the ledge. He said that he wasn’t in any immediate danger but that he was unable to ascend or descend from his location. Upon flying past, rescue personnel were shocked to discover that Susman had downplayed his predicament. They found that he was standing on minuscule ledge, clinging to the rock on a nearly vertical wall approximately 800 feet above the valley floor.

Susman’s position was deemed to be too tenuous to try to retrieve him directly by short haul. The concern was that the buffeting winds from the aircraft might dislodge Susman from his stance before he could be made secure. The pilot, Richard Shatto, and the two spotters, Jeff Pirog and Boots Davenport, had a difficult time maintaining a steady hover with the aircraft due to gusting winds. Ranger Keith Lober was short-hauled into a location 50 feet above Susman’s perch, where he power drilled three anchor bolts. Ranger Eric Gabriel was then short-hauled to the anchor station. Lober lowered Gabriel down to Susman, who was then secured in a “screamer suit.” He and Gabriel were then short-hauled off the face.

Analysis

Cellphone coverage in Yosemite backcountry is generally nonexistent. Susman was incredibly lucky, as the location where he became stuck was just high enough for the cell signal to peek over the surrounding rock faces and hit the Sentinel Dome repeater, the only repeater in that area of remote wilderness.

Susman had sustained and recovered from two short falls just before deciding to stop and request help. He was wearing hiking boots at the time. (Source: Keith Lober, Emergency Medical Services Program Manager) (Editor's Note: This is another case of a scrambler ending up in a climbing situation. This individual had indeed come to Yosemite to do some climbing and had led climbs up to 5.10 prior to this. He is a member of a prominent college outing club in New England.)

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