Special ElCap Report: Rescue on the Leaning Tower

Special ElCap Report:  Rescue off the Leaning Tower 6/25/13

By Tom Evans

Yo… I know..... I told you that I have stopped reporting for the Spring season… But we had a big rescue off the Tower yesterday, that was quite similar to a big ElCap rescue, so I thought I would give you my inside look at it.

It started with a call from a solo climber, Shane Houbart, who fell on the West Face Route.  He injured his lower back and didn’t feel he could make the overhanging rappels to the deck.  YOSAR swung into action early in the morning.

1)  We had gotten some rain and in the early morning light the Tower looked cold and forbidding.  It is the big orange face on the left of the shot.

























2)  Todd Bartlow and Niels Tietze were sent to climb the 4 pitches to the injured climber.  Here they are crossing the wildly exposed and loose, traverse ledge to the start of the 1st pitch.

























3)  Niels, a strong and fast climber, took the sharp end and they made excellent time by short fixing.  Todd, also an excellent climber, jugged, belayed and hauled the pack.

























4)  Niels and Todd reached the injured climber in less than 2 hours of climbing.  They talked the situation over and it was decided that the climber needed to be lowered off the cliff, a formidable task on the severely overhanging wall.


























5)  The services of the Yosemite fire helicopter #551, flown by Richard Shatto, would be required for the many trips back and forth to the Tower.  Richard flew with precision and nerve, like we have seen him do in many past rescues. 

























The plan was to send 4 rangers to the top of the rock, lower one down, 800ft, to the injured climber and then lower both to the ground.

6)  Jack Hoeflick, Aaron Smith, Jesse McGahey, and Chris Bellino, all experts in helicopter, and climbing rescue techniques, were flown to the top.  Here you see Jesse and Aaron landing on the top while Chris and Jack belayed them upon arrival.

























7)  Aaron Smith got the job of lowering down the wildly overhanging cliff, while the other three did excellent rope work from the top.


























8)  When Aaron arrived, near the ledge the climber was on, he was a long way out from the wall and had some difficulty in getting a pull-in rope down to Niels.

























9)  Soon Niels had the rope and with Todds help was able to pull Aaron into the belay.  They treated Shane and secured him onto the litter.


























10)  A short time later they lowered Aaron, and the climber, out into space.

























11)  Aaron made adjustments, stacked some rope into the bag, and down they went.

























12)  Soon they were many hundreds of feet lower and into the hands of the ground team.  Nicely done!!


























13)  The chopper then picked up the climber and Aaron and flew them to the ElCap Meadow.

























14)  Medical personnel were on hand to load Shane into the ambulance and another great rescue was in the books!!  Aaron is the man with all the climbing gear on his harness.

























We are always amazed how well these difficult rescues are accomplished, but it is only so because of hours and days of practice and hard work by the Best in The West…. YOSAR!!  Many thanks go out to the rest of the team involved in this rescue... there were many more people involved than just those mentioned in this report.

So that’s the way it was, on this 25th day of June, 2013.

Out again…

Capt. Tom





Nice Reporting

Thanks for sharing! Yosemitebear


Great rescue. Great reporting.

That must be a long ass rope!

Nice Work

From the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group: Excellent Rescue.



My hat is certainly off to

My hat is certainly off to YOSAR!


Giving me goosebumps just looking at the pics.
Hats off to the entire YOSAR and NPS rescue team.
6 climbing rangers, 1 chopper pilot. Unsung support team.
And Tom, hats off to you for recording this.