Half Dome Accident


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 14, 2006 - 01:54pm PT
Yosemite National Park (CA)
Fatal Fall From Half Dome

On about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8th, Valley District rangers, SAR personnel and trail crew members responded to vague cell phone reports that there’d been a fall with serious injury from the Half Dome cables (in October, the cable hand lines are laid down on the rock and the stanchions which hold the cables up are removed to prevent them from being damaged by avalanches). Responding personnel had to hike up the nine miles of trail and the slab approach to the northwest face due to marginal flying conditions. Orders were placed for several helicopters; two eventually made it into the Valley but were unable to transport crews to the site of the accident due to low clouds surrounding the dome. The medical hasty team arrived on scene at 5 p.m. and found the body of Emily Sandall, a 25-year-old New Mexico resident and graduate of the University of Montana, at a spot about 300 feet below the base of the cables. According to her hiking partner, Sandall was descending the cables when she slipped on the wet rock, lost her grip on the cable, and slid out of sight. Her body was flown out by long line under a helicopter the following day. [Submitted by Leslie Reynolds, Valley District Ranger]

my condolences to her friends and family
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 14, 2006 - 02:12pm PT
I hate seeing this stuff.

When we build roads into the mountains and canyons just for the view, and make outdoor adventure culturally heroic it seems inevitable that enthusiastic people become overextended with tragic results.
I almost think there should be mandatory orientation for a backcountry permit, but what would REALLY help is to hold people financially reponsible for rescue costs. People would behave far more conservatively if their OWN wallets were on the line.

Werner, ball park, what were the costs of this recovery?

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
Nov 14, 2006 - 02:14pm PT
I am surprised it doesn't happen more often.
Doug Hemken

Madison, WI
Nov 14, 2006 - 02:38pm PT
Ron wrote:
"but what would REALLY help is to hold people financially responsible for rescue costs"

Has this approach reduced the number of highway accidents and ER visits? So people have fewer accidents in states where insurance rates are higher? Or are you suggesting that we do away with the concept of "insurance" altogether?

State of Mine
Nov 14, 2006 - 02:43pm PT
very sad, my condolences.

ron, i doubt emily really gives a sh#t at this point what the cost is.

Nov 14, 2006 - 02:51pm PT
My heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased.

There aren't always answers Ron.

Nov 14, 2006 - 02:51pm PT
This is a person who gave a lot more than she took from society. I do not think the cost of this is even worthy of discussion.

Trad climber
the south
Nov 14, 2006 - 02:56pm PT
Anybody can slip.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 14, 2006 - 03:00pm PT
Doug, I said not one word against insurance, a business that earns me money, but the premiums still come out of our wallets.

Too bad people don't seem to appreciate that fact.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Nov 14, 2006 - 03:19pm PT

Nov 14, 2006 - 03:39pm PT
"Werner, ball park, what were the costs of this recovery?"

did someone really pose this question?
was this question asked when Todd Skinner fell?

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Nov 14, 2006 - 03:49pm PT
No matter how many rules we are still gonna die... All of us.
I am sad for her family, and I am happy she was able to see the view off the dome at such a pretty time of year.

The world is a great place when people do what the WANT to do when they WANT to it.

Big Wall climber
Stoney Point
Nov 14, 2006 - 04:00pm PT
I was coming down the cables after the regular route and this tourist was frozen with fear halfway down. It seems everytime I do the cables I am helping someone.

I find the cable scary.


Nov 14, 2006 - 04:14pm PT
"did someone really pose this question?
was this question asked when Todd Skinner fell?'

The correct framing of that question should be "How many times does this get noted on every other accident"?

BTW, maybe not the best place to put the question, but it is very worthy of discussion IMO.

I'm sure that all of us feel bad to hear of this kind of a thing anytime or anyplace.

Climb safe


Big Wall climber
colorado springs
Nov 14, 2006 - 04:46pm PT
Ron, sometimes even the best fall or make a mistake or something else that costs them their life. If we stopped to think, we have all taken calculated risks that could have gotten us killed, but we made it out ok. This doesn't always happen. To presume that Emily should not have been where she was is an insult to her and her family. This statement does not make any mention of fact that might clue us in. I consider myself very compentent in the BC. But I slip once and a while, I've just been lucky enough to not slip with any real fall potential.

Boulder climber
Sick Midget Land
Nov 14, 2006 - 05:47pm PT
My condolences to all concerned.

Usually these 'cost estimates' are not real numbers anyway. Most rescues are by people who are being paid to be on the job and they are often using exactly the same resources when training as they do when participating in a rescue. So chances are this rescue didn't 'cost' anything that wasn't already spent.

Nov 14, 2006 - 06:15pm PT
Wrong ......

The costs go way up for the use of helicopters and it becomes a "major incident" on the accounting scale. I don't know the actual costs.

This was actually the second time this happened within a month or so except the first one the guy who slipped stopped on a flake and was able to hang on until a SAR response secured him. He basically came out pretty good and just suffered minor hypothermia due to inclement weather while waiting for his rescue response. It was raining at the time also.

The girl fell much farther and and died due to her injuries from her fall. It was raining during this incident also.

5.10 rubber on someones soles would have been a contributing factor for better adhesion on wet slabs. They work fairly good on wet rock. Her shoe soles were most likely poor for wet rock. Most of you know how poor non sticky rubber on wet slabs is, almost equivalent to wearing roller skates.

Very sad accident and everyone felt bad about her unfortunate fate.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 14, 2006 - 06:15pm PT
People are right.
I chose the wrong place for this, but it is worthy of discussion.

Foremost it was a tragedy, but the point is it also constitutes one of the hidden costs of the adrenaline addiction we deem to admire.

Trad climber
Nov 14, 2006 - 06:40pm PT
The friends and family of Emily Sandall have my condolences.

When the cables are "down", some segments go off the "beaten path" and the rock there is not nearly as polished and slippery as the rock on the path. At least that was my experience. Stepping back from regular rock back onto the polished rock of the path, I noticed a big difference, even with rock shoes. I can only imagine how much more slippery it would be when wet. The wet cable was probably slippery also.

Edit: This could happen to anyone. I think most people who go up the cables when they are "down" appreciate the risks and I hope the answer isn't just to ban climbing the cables in the off-season. If anything the least bit risky was banned, we wouldn't be able to climb anymore. We climb because the rewards are more then commensurate with the risks.

2nd Edit:

"I crawl through the corn, like a child
which in a way is who I am in the fields
the roots of who I am--woven in the earth and its rhythms"

    Emily Sandall, http://www.talkingleaves.org/taxonomy/term/131

Nov 14, 2006 - 07:40pm PT
Comments about costs of a rescue during this time and on this thread are whacked to say the least. Who cares about costs someone has just died get a grip!

My condolences to Emily's family and friends.
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