American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Darkness - Stranded, California, Pinnacles National Monument, Condor Crag

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2010

DARKNESS – STRANDED

California, Pinnacles National Monument, Condor Crag

On the evening of November 15th, park staff assisted two climbers down from a climbing route after they had become stranded due to nightfall. Both climbers were uninjured.

The climbers were able to place a cellphone call to a friend around 6:00 p.m. after they could no longer climb in darkness. They were near the top of a 500-foot route on the Condor Crag formation in the High Peaks area of the park. They were in different locations on the route and could not complete the final 100 feet without additional light. Rangers contacted the party via cellphone and determined their location and condition before the phone battery was exhausted. With an overnight forecast of 25 degrees F and gusting winds, rangers and search and rescue team members were dispatched to climb to their location. The crew of a California Highway Patrol helicopter located the pair using infrared radar and a powerful “Night Sun” floodlight. Assisted by monument staff, the climbers then completed the route and descent. By the time they got down at 1:00 a.m., they’d been on the route for 14 hours. (Source: Brett Hergert, Operations Supervisor) (Editor’s Note: In the not too distant past, these climbers would have spent a night out—and maybe worse. Cellphones and the technical equipment available to rescue personnel have changed the game of climbing considerably. Maybe we should revive the notion of creating no-rescue zones…)

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