Redpoint rescues climber from potential hypothermia on a rock face in Yosemite

Posted on Posted in Rescue

‘Their speed amazed us’

By Murray “Murf” Clark

I’d like to thank Redpoint Resolutions. My family and I are very grateful for their recent rescue of my son from a situation that could have ended much differently without their skilled, professional efforts.

The day after his 24th birthday, my son—with a 20-year-old climbing partner—attempted to summit Half Dome in Yosemite National Park via the Regular Northwest Face, a famous climbing route up 2000 feet of granite on one of the most recognizable rock formations in the world. They thought they were prepared—with knowledge of the route and the proper equipment. They thought they had enough food and water. They expected to complete the climb in the span of one day from pre-dawn until sunset, though neither had climbed the route before. They assumed a “Big Wall” would simply be a longer version of other climbs they had previously completed. They assumed a correct weather forecast, the worst of which was a chance of light rain. They assumed their descent, down the “easier” cable route (with the cable down for the winter), in the dark, would be well within their capabilities, though neither had been on that 9-mile route before either. They were wrong.

My wife and I awoke in Kansas to read hours-old texts from our stranded climber.

John’s climbing partner on the wall

We asked for an update and eventually received nervous replies reporting his situation and asking for help. The Yosemite National Park Service website urged us to dial 9-1-1, but we quickly realized dialing 9-1-1 in Kansas would not yield help in California. When we did reach Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) through a dispatch number, we were reassured they would monitor the situation and were already in touch—through cell phone—with our young men on the wall. I spoke directly throughout the day with two YOSAR commanders who were in fact monitoring the situation through a spotting scope from the valley floor. They even called me to offer updates on our climbers’ progress after John and his partner had begun to inch up the wall in mid afternoon. They predicted our climbers would not summit before dark. They had informed the exhausted, cold climbers of a “cave”—a small wedge in the rock—in which they might bivouac a second night. John and his partner had been on the wall for over 36 hours by then.

The temperature forecast for that night—for the valley floor—was 21 degrees Fahrenheit. We knew it would be colder 4000 feet higher. When the human body is exposed to constant moisture at temperatures under 50 degrees, fatal hypothermia is a potential outcome. We knew we couldn’t wait. Through a network of friends, we found Redpoint Resolutions. From our first contact, communication was constant, candid, and clear. We explained the situation. They gave blunt, matter-of-fact advice. Even before we said, “go,” Redpoint was gathering information and the best available resources. Not much later, when we did say “please go,” we learned that the first movements to help were already in motion. Experts were already near—and then in the park—and then quickly moving up Half Dome. Their speed amazed us. Without hesitation, Redpoint added more family members—John’s older sister and her husband in Boston—to a messaging group they had created for us. We shared information both ways, and felt reassured that we had made the right decision to ask Redpoint for help.

First light on the wall

As darkness approached Half Dome and our son’s cell phone went to 0%, his rescuers were in place. They had reached the summit with almost unbelievable speed. He would not spend another night on Half Dome. The Redpoint team lowered two 70-meter ropes—one to ascend and one for extra safety—and belayed John and his partner through thin air and directly up and over the lip of “The Visor” on the edge of Half Dome.

Dry clothes, food, and hot drinks were ready for them at the top. The team guided them down the still-treacherous cable route. His rescuers, with deep knowledge of the park, knew where to find a well-hidden spring for extra water on the trail back to the valley. I had flown and driven from Kansas to arrive at Yosemite Valley. By 3:00 a.m. I was face-to-face with my son and had thanked his humble rescuers.

Redpoint’s services for this sort of emergency are available to its Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance policy holders.

In his radio address on Armed Forces Day in 1982, President Reagan re-asked the question written by James Michener in his novel The Bridges at Toko-Ri, “Where do we find such men?” Our president gave his answer: “Well, we find them where we’ve always found them. They are the product of the freest society man has ever known.” He was referring to the military. I would argue that Redpoint Resolutions is another place to find such men: men with skills, dedication, and professionalism. Men with the strength, courage, and knowledge to do whatever needs to be done. Sheepdogs who protect the flock and take calculated risks to keep us safe from wolves. Three men from Redpoint [plus the vigilant men and women at Redpoint Operations’ command center] removed the possibility of a worst case for my son, but my respect goes beyond gratitude for their actions. I am simply glad to know such men are out there—in the dark and cold if necessary—to answer calls for help.

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance™ combines the best medevac and rescue insurance with travel insurance benefits such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, lost baggage, primary medical expense coverages, and more. Ripcord is powered by Redpoint Resolutions, a medical and travel risk security company owned and operated by special operations veterans and physicians.

Redpoint covers almost 10 million people worldwide and has evacuated clients from all seven continents.