The El Cap Rescue of 1972

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qigongclimber

climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 10, 2014 - 09:36pm PT
In late September of 1972 a couple of friends from Oregon were climbing the Nose when one of them pulled a very large and very loose block onto his leg as he was leading above Camp 5, resulting in a broken leg. What ensued was a rescue of major proportions. Iím posting these pictures for the historical record as well as for the people who participated, because I know a lot of you are on Supertopo. Hopefully the pictures will prompt a few stories. George included one of my pictures of the event on page 84 of Yosemite Climber.

Peter Haan has a couple of great write-ups on the two big El Cap rescues before this one:

http://www.yosemiteclimbing.org/content/first-el-capitan-rescue-1970
http://www.yosemiteclimbing.org/content/first-bad-weather-el-cap-rescue-1970




I talked my way through the rangers to the base of El Cap to see how my friend was holding up and help if i could. I also wanted to take advantage of something that I felt would never happen again. I grabbed the ropes and looked up to see them stretching thousands of feet up to the top of El Cap. It was an amazing sight.
WBraun

climber
Nov 10, 2014 - 09:48pm PT
WBraun

climber
Nov 10, 2014 - 09:50pm PT
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 10, 2014 - 10:40pm PT
We were bivvied on Middle Cathedral Rock that night (yes, I know it's a sure sign of incompetence), and were fascinated watching the searchlights illuminate the Nose.

Thanks for posting what we only saw from a distance.

John
Jodie

Sport climber
Oregon
Nov 10, 2014 - 11:09pm PT
I witnessed a reunion between Jim and Neal back in '99, at a party that we roped Bridwell into coming to after one of his slideshows in Portland. It was super epic seeing these guy's hook-up after all those years. Wish i had a pic to post of them, i used to bump into Neal doing solo laps out at Beacon Rock now and then. Thanks for the cool story and photos :)
bhilden

Trad climber
Mountain View, CA/Boulder, CO
Nov 10, 2014 - 11:20pm PT
I climbed with Neal in the Valley in 1976 (he had this way of splaying his feet out sideways on tiny facing climbing edges somewhat like a duck walk).

He told me that they had quite the stash with them up on the wall and he was partaking in it in a big way to relieve his pain as he waited for the rescuers to reach him. He said that when Bridwell rapped down to their stance he offered Jim a toke. Jim took a few puffs, looked at their paltry anchor and quickly drilled several 1/4" bolts.

My guess is the reason why Neal is in such good spirits is that he is probably stoned out of his gord:-)
WBraun

climber
Nov 11, 2014 - 07:50am PT
Rik remember?

We didn't even have any long ropes to do the actual rescue until the next morning.

They had to fly Loyd Price by helicopter to someplace to buy the long ropes to do the actual lower to the ground.

He showed up the next morning with the ropes on these spools which we carried down from the LZ at the top to the lip.

The spool I was part of carrying was so heavy there were four of us, 2 on each side holding onto the pipe thru the center.

Too bad nobody had a camera in our flight to the top as we asked the pilot to hover up to the shield so we can get a good look at Charlie Porter doing the first ascent.

Charlie waved at us .....
The Larry

climber
Moab, UT
Nov 11, 2014 - 07:56am PT

I witnessed a reunion between Jim and Neal back in '99, at a party that we roped Bridwell into coming to after one of his slideshows in Portland. It was super epic seeing these guy's hook-up after all those years. Wish i had a pic to post of them, i used to bump into Neal doing solo laps out at Beacon Rock now and then. Thanks for the cool story and photos :)

Hey! That party was at my house. I remember seeing those two talking. Do I know you Jodie?

pyro

Big Wall climber
Calabasas
Nov 11, 2014 - 08:12am PT
wow!
thank-you for posting pictures..
I was not even born yet.
GLee

Social climber
Montucky
Nov 11, 2014 - 08:35am PT
Sikorsky HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giant" helicopters had a useful load of 7 tons (14,000 lbs).... Way more than was probably loaded that day....
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Nov 11, 2014 - 10:02am PT
TFPU all! Great shots!


"Too bad nobody had a camera in our flight to the top as we asked the pilot to hover up to the shield so we can get a good look at Charlie Porter doing the first ascent.

Charlie waved at us ....."

I smiled at this. Fun.
Joron

Trad climber
Hoodland, Oregon
Nov 11, 2014 - 12:09pm PT
Wow! Great stories and photos. I've been climbing with Neal since 1970. Met him in the PSU Outdoor Program along with a bunch of other colorful characters. He's still climbing despite a serious brain aneuryism in 2005. It was touch and go for a while, but he came out of it with just a few speech issues. So many good times together - five expeditions to Nepal and countless trips to Smith, Squamish, N Cascades, Hood etc. Not to mention the fun parties! Also, worked with Neal on many occasions as we are both carpenters.

I was at the slide show with Neal when Bridwell's wife told us that the rescue made Jim famous. Mountain #29 has a feature article on his rescue. The climbing chapter in Off the Wall:Death in Yosemite starts with Neal's rescue story. The ledge partying has become legendary around the campfire...

If there's anymore stories or photos I know Neal would appreciate them. He's a bit of Luddite so I will pass stuff along to him.

Cheers, Joron

[photo[photoid=385974]id=385973]
Joron

Trad climber
Hoodland, Oregon
Nov 11, 2014 - 12:15pm PT
[photoid=385979]
qigongclimber

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 11, 2014 - 02:42pm PT
werner, rrider - thanks for the details and photos!

joron - the last time i remember climbing with neal and wayne was doing dod's jam on beacon rock in 1979. it's great to hear that neal is still out there climbing. haven't heard anything about wayne since '79. -tom
bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Nov 11, 2014 - 03:19pm PT
Mountain magazine did a great photo spread on this -- I think it was issue #14? That's classic that Olsen and Bridwell were properly tuned up for the ride down.

Edit: Just saw upthread it was ish #29.
The Larry

climber
Moab, UT
Nov 11, 2014 - 03:55pm PT
Safety first.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Nov 11, 2014 - 04:11pm PT
This thread is about as good as it gets on ST: compelling photos and first hand accounts, internet reunions of some of the participants,and even an early example of marijuana used as emergency medicine,with the approval of the first responders, who were clearly ahead of their time.

Question: did they really land that giant helicopter on top of El Cap?

Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 11, 2014 - 04:19pm PT
Account in Mountain 29

That whole mission was ad hoc. No one had done it before. Jim developed a plan and assigned the tasks. We and the NPS fell into line and improvised to get it done. Rube Goldberg devices every where. Those of us on top could see the ropes paying out and could sometimes hear the radio, but all the action was on the face.


Fashion Plates on Rescue: Bridwell front and center. I am scoping the horizon with my cloud laser beam.


Here Wunsch and I are lengthening the rope by untying the knot and taping the butt ends together.


We payed out ropes for Jim and Olsen from the top to the ground. The team on the face ran them through a break at Camp 5. With such long lines, Jim would have to would have to walk back up the face and down again with Olsen in the litter as the ropes would be blown across the face.

Werner once posted pictures of the Klieg lights that were used to light up the face, but the links are broken. Can you repost them Werner?

At the end of the operation, the crew on top spend hours pulling up those ropes and clearing the lines. The Park Services sent up a case of beer. I endeared myself to everyone by not allowing any one to drink until we were done and away from the face. We had spent the previous night on top, were tried and wanted to get down.

We moved everything to the top of the El Cap dome and waited in the late afternoon for the Navy helicopter to take us down. A smaller helicopter was used to ferry us and our loads off the top, not the big one we are shown climbing into in El Cap meadow up-thread. The pilot made one or two runs with the gear and came up for the rest of us--there were about eight of us as I remember. The pilot announced that the next run was the last and there wasn't enough lift capacity to take us and all the gear down.

I can only imagine what our faces looked like when that bit of enlightening news sank in. (Of course, we all instantly volunteered to be left behind to walk walk down.) The pilot paused, looked around the top of El Cap, motioned everyone away from the chopper, moved it over to the top of the slabs above the West Face, got out and motioned for everyone to come with all the remaining gear.

The chopper was sitting at an angle on the slabs above the West Face. We all squeezed in with the gear, just getting the door shut. The pilot just got the chopper off the ground, tilted forward and fell, gracefully, off the West face.

Nice tour of the West Buttress on the way down.

This was also the time for the famous quip from John Dill over the radio as Jim was about to reach the ground,
"Now remember Jim, it's 'One giant step for man, one small leap for mankind.'"
-- backwards from Armstrong's moon mission.
Jodie

Sport climber
Oregon
Nov 11, 2014 - 04:19pm PT
Larry, that must of been one hell of safety meeting...
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Nov 11, 2014 - 04:32pm PT
wow - what a great thread! I even got something small out of this. Pete Thompson was the Camp 4 ranger for awhile in the 70's. I've been trying to remember his name for years.
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