Trip Report
Snake Dike - A different kind of trip report (no photos -- sorry).
Monday October 17, 2011 12:30pm
Sometime in the early seventies Mike Corbett and I decided to embark on a major expedition to climb one of the worlds most difficult and dangerous routes. So we geared up our piton, bashie and ice screw racks, organized our bivy gear, packed up the llamas and set out for Half Dome to do the notorious Snake Dike.

After exhausting ourselves dodging tourists on the trail and bushwhacking up the slabs we arrived at the base of the route, only to discover some carrion blocking access to the entry moves. No not a squirrel, deer or yeti but a full on dead guy. He was lying face down and fully clothed including a down jacket which had left a trail of feathers stuck in some dried blood for about a hundred feet straight up the route.

Not the best way to start a climb.

He was basically dressed in street clothes no harness, slings, rope, bong or any other stuff that might have indicated he was a seventies era climber. This prevented us from seeing if his climbing shoes might fit one of us (like stories of some former rescue team members who's name shall not be mentioned here). We could see a bulge in his back pocket that was obviously a wallet, so we argued over who would touch the guy to get the wallet. Since Mike adamantly refused the task fell to me. We examined his ID and though the wallet contained some cash I restrained myself and didn't steal it. We tossed on our packs and headed back down to the valley.

As we walked down we discussed doing our civic duty and reporting this to the tools. Now the curious thing was that Mike, not being very mechanically inclined, had some time earlier gotten into some trouble with the tools. The upshot was that he had been banned from the park for six months. During that six months he never actually left the park. Folks who were around back then will probably remember some funny guy walking through Yosemite Village wearing a ski mask, even after winter had long since turned to spring. Of course anyone who knew Mike could still recognize him from a mile away from his walk and stature and it was amazing that the tools didn't. So having Mike walk into the Vistor's Center to report a dead guy was out of the question. Once again the task fell to me which I thought was getting tiresome.

So being the only upstanding citizen involved here, I reported the dead guy at the Visitors Center, where they had me wait for some tools to arrive to take my statement. They arrived, took and after some secretive talk over their radios, insisted that I accompany them to the LEO office for some further discussion. They put me into an interrogation room and started grilling me about how I knew the dead guy. They pulled the whole good-cop, bad-cop routine while I insisted that I never knew or heard of this guy before. I was there for about four hours. You see, the tools were suspicious of climbers in general and especially of climbers who had long hair and didn't look like tools themselves. Plus the dead guy happened to be a park employee who worked at the garage. Yosemite is a small community and having a long time local climber claim he didn't know this dead park employee was a stretch for them. I honestly didn't know the guy and neither did Mike. It turned out the reason they held me so long was that they were frantically trying to find the dead guys brother, who also worked for the park, so that he could come in and recognize me as a friend or acquaintance of the dead guy. Then they could arrest me for giving a false report and suspicion of murder. Well the brother finally shows up, comes into the interrogation room, gives me a good look over and leaves. I'd never seen this guy before or since. Shortly after the tools let me go.

That's how I almost got arrested for murder in Yosemite. Later that very same year I almost got arrested for armed robbery in Jackson, Wyoming but that's another trip report.

Though I've taken some literary license here, most of the facts are essentially true. My sincere condolences and appologies to the dead guy's family. I can't even remember his name and wouldn't post it if I could. All other names have not been changed since we're all guilty of something.

  Trip Report Views: 2,775
About the Author
errett is a social climber from Grumpy Ridge.

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the Fet

  Oct 17, 2011 - 12:41pm PT
Interesting read, thanks for posting. They tried to pull an Amanda Knox on you!

  Oct 17, 2011 - 12:42pm PT
No reason to apoligize for no pictures. I think I prefer it that way. Unusual story.

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Oct 17, 2011 - 12:44pm PT
Did you ever find out who the dead guy was? Was he a climber soloing the route?

Social climber
Grumpy Ridge
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2011 - 12:49pm PT
As I said I don't remember his name, but later we learned he had been reported missing 3 days earlier. The final verdict was that he hiked Half Dome without telling anyone his destination, got disoriented after dark and went down the wrong way.
Inner City

Trad climber
Portland, OR
  Oct 17, 2011 - 12:52pm PT
Interesting report. I too found an expired person while adventuring in Yosemite. We were in Tenaya canyon and came across a Korean hiker who had been missing for 6 weeks. My wife and I were detained by the 'tools' for quite a time. Not sure if they thought we were involved or not, but the delay was tiresome after having done the full canyon traverse that day...I recall that there were some pointed questions about whether we knew the guy or not.
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Oct 17, 2011 - 01:06pm PT
Spooky stuff!

The police often assume the worst, and are trained to do so. (Not that there are many murders in Yosemite.) In this case, the fact of a seeming vagrant reporting a death would instantly raise their suspicions - although vagrants are likely in short supply at the base of Snake Dike! Especially if you're of no fixed address. They'd hang onto and question you until they were sure you were legit, or at least they really knew who you are and where to find you.

The police behaviour is kind of amusing. Several times I've interacted with them as an unknown civilian, e.g. as witness to an accident. They usually back off when I give them a card.
the Fet

  Oct 17, 2011 - 01:47pm PT
It's stories like these that make me wonder if I found something like this if I should just report it anonymously. It's fine to keep someone for questioning but they should treat you very well, offer coffee and food etc. The whole bad cop routine is going to turn off people who would otherwise want to help.

Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
  Oct 17, 2011 - 10:21pm PT
Errett, wow, i don't remember that story, maybe i blocked it out, or maybe you never told me...

I'm sure the book- Valley of death, has his name recorded in it..... I recall that Tobia had a employee friend who died soloing. Where he perished- i don't know, but i do know, he was a really nice guy name Steve Serretta(sp)..

yep, the flavor BITG. was definitely rangers vs Climbers...and not in a good way.


Social climber
  Feb 11, 2012 - 02:46pm PT
Steve Sereda died somewhere near the summit of Clouds Rest in 1979. He fell while attempting some overhanging stuff. If I remember correctly he was camping on the summit, so it was more like bouldering.

He was the first person I hiked and climbed with in Yosemite. Some of you guys may remember him, he worked in the park for several summers, both in the valley and Tuolumne Meadows.

Steven Anthony Sereda, a good friend.
Steven Anthony Sereda, a good friend.
Credit: Tobia


Boulder climber
  Feb 11, 2012 - 04:37pm PT
I remember hearing rumors about the OP's incident. Something to the effect that the guy's fingers had been ground to nothing, from trying to stop sliding down the rock.

Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
  Feb 11, 2012 - 04:41pm PT
Grim stuff. Was initially bummed there were no photos, but like Gene, happy it is that way.

Minden, NV
  Feb 12, 2012 - 12:14pm PT
After reading this I think I would use a pay phone to report it to the authorities. I would give them the facts hang up and drive far away! I can understand where the authorities are comming from but that's hard to swallow if your just someone trying to do the right thing.

Mountain climber
Marooned, 855 miles from Tuolumne Meadows
  Feb 12, 2012 - 12:51pm PT
I was a friend of Steve Sereda and was shaken pretty badly by his accident on Clouds Rest. Steve was indeed someone everybody liked. Thanks for the photo of him.

I wish I could remember seeing Corbett with the ski mask; the thought of it is hilarious.

Mountain climber
  Mar 30, 2012 - 12:17am PT
Tobia, thanks for posting the photo of Steve. It makes me sad still to think of his death. I grew up with Steve from kindergarden through high school. We served our "time" together and were good friends. We both started climbing at about the same time and shared that bond too. I would visit him regularly in Yosemite and loved sharing in his passion for climbing and the outdoors. I met some of his friends also, possibly we met at curry or the meadows. I would love to hear any stories you might have of our friend and could pass the milder ones on to his family.
Thanks again, Malcolm

Trad climber
Starlite, California
  Mar 30, 2012 - 01:28am PT

Excellent narrative. I think we all got the picture, w/o photos.

Once upon a time, there was an "Alien Abduction," and SAR couldn't locate the missing hiker. About 6 weeks later, I found myself chatting with a couple of the climbing pursuit, who remarked that they'd gone up the Gunsight to swim in the Bridleviel swimming holes. And rehydrate. Some distance upstream, they chanced upon the remains.

We started calling Green Dragon "White Dragon," after the namesake lichen was replaced by chalk. Then..."Red Dragon," after a soloist fell from Mr. Natural. His 1st impact left a body wide blood streak from the 1st belay to the ground. "Yeah," said a nearby party, "He bailed Big Time."

This will end up as a Thread on its own account:

I was racing over Tioga to make SFO in time to catch the 1st of several flights that would take me over 12 time zones to Pearyland, via Boston, Iceland, Oslo, Spitzbergen, Station Nord. Encountered a ranger headed eastbound at Sunshine Curve; I was doing about 70 in a 45 mph zone.

So, I immediately slows down, and pull into the Lembert parking lot to await my ticket. He shows up a few minutes later...and boxes me into my head-in stall with his car. Another ranger shows up a minute later, and while I'm glancing out the passenger window of the Jeep at this huge beltbuckle, the 1st LEO asks me if I'm "carrying any marijuana or firearms?"

I've never had anyone ask me that question before, except for some homies I guess.

Said: "No."

"Well, then, do you mind if we search your car?"

That, I thought about for a moment. You know, the expedient means out of an irksome delay.

"Yes! I do. " Asserting my rights. Like King Kong, I had a plane to catch!

They backed down.

About a month later, I'm returning from SFO, having established what still remains as the World's Farthest North (land), claiming it for The Republic of the Lone Star, further explorations, etc...

And another ranger, hesitating about which way to pull out of the Tuolumne Grove parking lot by Crane Flat makes me, and falls in behind. That long stretch is 35 mph, and after I had about 10 cars behind me, I decided I didn't want this tail on me all the way over the Pass, so I pulled out at some convenient but closed campground.

5 minute later, this ranger is back. Older guy. Asks me the same question, like I'm some kind of Sandinista. Firearms? Bear control, of course.

He didn't bother asking my permission to search my car, he just was like: "We'll just take a look." Fortunately, I'd stopped after my 1st encounter to search what is my wife's car. Good thing! Firearms all over the place!

A year or 2 later, my Daughter and b/f gets pulled over on the Pass. But, they agreed to allow a search.

They were detained for 2-1/2 hours, as a team of rangers removed door panels - the works! They were allowed to depart only after our LEO's found a suspicious, plant like material. Alfalfa hay - we have 2 mules on our property. This was dismissed in the Valley Court; she fought it and won. No probable cause, illegal search and seizure w/o a warrant. Federal Case, not subject to CA's less than 1 oz enforcement.

I think I should post this up, since it involves profiling. Even after I informed my own ranger I was heading towards Greenland, he asked if I was planning to climb Lembert. On my release from the traffic stop, which I initiated with a smile and an apology for speeding, he dutifully reminded me that the citation would need to be taken care of (paid) before the end of the month, and I'd better do so before my flight.

I, and others, have been harassed in Utah (pronounced ooo-tah), as well.
Ann Sereda Taylor

Victorville, CA
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:10pm PT
Thank you for sharing your story of how you found my brother, Steve. I came upon this website when I googled his name today, and was surprised to read what happened when you came upon his body. I appreciate your efforts in trying to do the right thing and am sorry you were harassed by the authorities when you brought them the news.

Steve was a great guy and it is rare a day goes by where he doesn't enter my mind. I'm a better person because of his life and am a better person because of his death.

As Steve would say, "I send you good vibes!"
Ann Sereda Taylor

Social climber
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:32pm PT
Can't believe I missed this first time around. Wonderful story telling, you have a real talent. The statute of limitations is passed :) honesty and candor can be used.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:44pm PT
The matter-of-fact way in which this story was told reminds me of a 1940s film noir private eye narrative . This could have been written by Raymond Chandler and acted by Humphrey Bogart..

Condolences to the family .
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Jul 17, 2013 - 06:45pm PT
Yeah, I missed this too.

Sad story.

Question for the OP; did you ask if you were under arrest? Free to go?
While I can understand the authorities to be suspicious your description makes them sound ham handed.

GILL gives good advice.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jul 17, 2013 - 07:28pm PT
The dead man which the Westons found and reported to the county sherif...
The dead man which the Westons found and reported to the county sheriff, whose deputy knew exactly where to find the body. "We get at least one a year out there, and it's fortunate it's in another county."
Credit: Edward Weston
In the 1930s, the Mohave.

Jon Beck

Trad climber
  Jul 17, 2013 - 07:38pm PT
In the late 70's in Denver we used to drink at the stage/gazebo at the lake in the big park. One night I was there with my girl friend and I looked in a partially open door and saw a body sprawled on the floor. Got the hell out of there and called it in on a pay phone. Would be hard to find a pay phone today.
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