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Yosemite National Park Rangers and Search and Rescue Personnel completed a high angle, high risk rescue on El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley, on Monday, October 22, 2012, in which a stranded Canadian climber was at risk for hypothermia. The summit of El Capitan, 7,569 feet above sea level, is the largest granite monolith in the world. This Yosemite icon attracts rock climbers from across the globe.
Two rock climbers began ascending a climbing route, known as the Muir Wall, on El Capitan on Monday, October 14, 2012. The party was due to reach the top of the climb on Sunday night, October 21, just before a large storm, with several inches of snow, was predicted. The lead climber, a 24-year old male from Ontario, Canada, reached the summit just before midnight on Sunday night. The second climber, a 40-year old male from British Columbia, Canada, was forced to spend the night approximately 230 feet below the summit due to impending bad weather and a stuck climbing rope.
At approximately 2:00 a.m. on Monday, October 22, the 40-year old climber attempted to deploy a rainfly over his portaledge (a hanging tent system designed for rock climbers to spend the night on a rock wall) to provide shelter from the rain/snow. However, during his attempt he slipped out of his portaledge and fell approximately 15 feet down the face of the rock. He was able to ascend his rope and secure himself back to the portaledge, but was unable to properly erect the rainfly. During the night, the area received approximately four to six inches of snow with nighttime temperatures in the mid-twenties.
Yosemite Park Rangers were notified of the possible hypothermic climber midday on Monday, October 22. Due to unfavorable weather, the park could not secure a helicopter to assist in the rescue and instead deployed ground teams to respond. Park Rangers Aaron Smith and Ben Doyle, and Search and Rescue Crew Member Matt Othmer immediately hiked to the summit of El Capitan to rescue the climber.
Snow, wind, and ice slowed rescue attempts and personnel reached the summit at approximately 4:00 p.m. The team rigged anchors and immediately began lowering Park Ranger Smith approximately 230 feet to the climber. Upon arrival, Smith found the climber to be suffering from exhaustion and mild hypothermia. Smith attached ropes to the climber, and then ascended the ropes back to the summit. Using a mechanical advantage system of pulleys, the team was then able to hoist the climber to the summit.
After warming the climber, the team descended back to Yosemite Valley via hiking and rappelling, and reached the Valley floor at approximately 10:00 p.m.
The climber was transported to a local hospital and is in good condition.