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Yosemite climber dies after stranded by turn in weather

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Yosemite climber dies after stranded by turn in weather

Postby copeg » Mon Nov 12, 2007 6:58 pm

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 1TB0TV.DTL
Oakland climber in Yosemite dies after weather turns bad
Marisa Lagos, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, November 12, 2007
(11-12) 14:56 PST YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK -- An Oakland man died of what appeared to be weather-related causes in Yosemite National Park Sunday morning after bad weather trapped him and his climbing partner on Cathedral Peak overnight.

Peter Charles Noble, 44, was unresponsive when rescue crews found him Sunday morning, park officials said.

Noble and his climbing partner, whose name was not released, set out on the climb Saturday morning and had expected to return after dark, but sleet and snow set in and stalled their descent down the peak, said Yosemite park ranger Adrienne Freeman.

The climbers finally made it down early Sunday morning, she said, and were about a mile-and-a-half from Tioga Pass Road on a hiking trail when Noble was unable to continue.

"(The other man) walked out and encountered a ranger at 7:30 a.m. Sunday and told him the situation," Freeman said. "He dispatched a rescue crew. They did get up there and found the other climber deceased about one-and-a-half miles off the road."

Freeman said it was not entirely clear what killed Noble, but she believed he was unconscious when his friend left him.

"The initial reports indicate there was not a traumatic fall involved; they do seem to indicate that the fatality was at least in part weather-related, maybe exposure or hypothermia," she said, adding that in cases like this there are often multiple factors that contribute to a climber's death.

The climbing partners, both men in their 40s believed to be experience climbers, set out to climb Cathedral Peak on Saturday and told a park ranger that they expected to return after dark, said Freeman. The summit is located just south of Tioga Pass Road, also known as Highway 120, and is near Tuolumne Meadows.

"It's a fairly commonly used climbing area - it's very rugged, at a very high altitude and it's a difficult climbing area," she said. "The route apparently took more time than they anticipated and they were rappelling late into Saturday night."

Freeman said the weather changed as the climbers were on their descent down the peak, first becoming windy and cold then turning to sleet and snow. National Weather Service officials confirmed that the area received about one-tenth of an inch of precipitation overnight at high altitudes.

The National Park Service is conducting an investigation and will cooperate with the Tuolumne County Medical Examiner, the agency that will determine the cause of death.

E-mail Marisa Lagos at mlagos@sfchronicle.com.

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Postby Trekker » Tue Nov 13, 2007 1:54 am

I read the link you posted, Trailblazer; he seems to have been a fairly experienced outdoorsman, according to the article. Makes me think there was something more to his death, since I would expect that they would have checked the weather beforehand and been prepared for an emergency bivouac; one night of exposure does not seem to be enough to have done that to someone who was fit. Some inaccuracies in the article with regard to the name of the road, too. Sad news.
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Postby Sierra Maclure » Tue Nov 13, 2007 12:06 pm

Whoa. Cathedral Lake is where I take my beginning bkpk clients for their first night. I think of it as user-friendly wilderness. My last trip of the season was in snow http://sierramaclure.smugmug.com/gallery/3532878. I wouldn't have wanted to spend the night out in it without my sleeping bag and tarp, though. Dang.

I've run into a lot of people who were in trouble or on their way. The last group was a handful of climbers who wandered into our camp at dusk attracted to our fire on their descent of Tenaya Peak after taking 10 hours to ascend the north face. It was apparent they were disoriented when they asked if the lake we were staying at, Mildred Lake just south of the peak, was Tenaya Lake - the lake that they took 10 hours to climb from north of the peak. They assumed that we were on a trail - kept asking where it was even after I told them we weren't on a trail. The alternating steep talus and thick brush cross-country descent to the road should only be attempted in daylight. When I took them to the west end of the lake to show them the headlights on 120 2 miles away and 2000 feet below they still didn't grasp the gravity of the situation. There was a huge sense of denial as to where they were and what they would have to go through to get back to their car. And there was "no room at the inn" with my group. I sent them xc thru a tallus gully to middle Sunrise Lake and told them to circle the lake (in the dark) to find the trail that would take them to the Sunrise-Clouds Rest Trail and another 4 miles on trail to the road. I kept telling them, "There is no good way out of here in the dark." They had no map and no compass. One woman seemed to be the leader and the others were blithely tagging along still taking pictures as the sky faded to a moonless night. I fully expected to read about them in the obituaries the next week. With snow and cold, the prognosis would have been more grim.

I'm hearing more and more of gym climbers getting caught unawares in the wilderness. I figure that as long as I'm not injured, I can comfortably hole up and sip tea in my shelter and sleeping bag for as long as it takes and come back with some great pictures.

Sad about the climber - to lose his life in what I consider my real home. My condolences go out to his family and friends.
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Postby markskor » Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:26 am

Mountainman who swims with trout
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Postby BSquared » Mon Nov 19, 2007 8:19 am

Sounds like absolutely classic hypothermia to me.
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