Climbers stranded, rescued on Machete Ridge

(9/17/2006)

from a report by Brett Hergert, Search and Rescue/Emergency Medical Services Coordinator for Pinnacles National Monument (and NPS Ranger)

One climber was stranded after completing a partial descent of the West Face route. He ran out of rope on his descent, ending up in the 5.12/A1 section. His partner, who remained on the ridge, asked two passing climbers for assistance. Additional rope was lowered to the stranded climber. Communication between the parties was difficult or non-existent. After deciding their partner was either out of reach or unable to ascend the line, they called 911 via cell phone.

As with most cell phones, 911 calls do not go directly to NPS Dispatch. This call was routed to Monterey County. Upon arriving at the Monument, Monterey County SAR contacted the Chaparral Rangers. While additional Rangers were enroute from the east side of the monument, responding agencies utilized a CDF helicopter to perform two short-haul evolutions before dark. We were then able to contact the two remaining climbers via cell phone. They agreed to stay on the ridge, rather than attempt the gully descent in the dark. Early the next morning, a NPS team began climbing Old Original in order to contact the climbers. However, the party was able to complete the descent without assistance.

This incident emphasizes the need for self-rescue skills, including the ability to reverse your descent if necessary.