Know When to Say When – Stranded Visitor Rescued from Tiny Ledge at Yosemite National Park
Rangers at Yosemite National Park have seen plenty of visitors in perilous situations, but apparently even they were shocked when they saw the dire situation of a man stranded on a tiny ledge.
According to a park report,
Park dispatch received a cell phone call from climber Daniel Susman around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 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.
Such situations aren't especially uncommon, but this visitor was apparently a master at understatement.
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.
Cell phone 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.
Incidentally, Susman had sustained and recovered from two short falls just before deciding to stop and request help.
Susman is reportedly on a long-distance hike and was passing through Yosemite when he decided to try the climb. He was free-climbing, with no "protection" (i.e. ropes or anchors.)
Although it's a lot better to avoid getting into such situations in the first place, once things start to go bad, know when to say when! This one had a successful ending because the visitor followed rule #2—and a lot of things came together at the right place and right time for his sake, including a highly-skilled pilot and SAR personnel.