Slip sliding away

Half  Dome – Yosemite Musing
Today’s tale of shear terror is the story of Scott Clancy. Normally the Half Dome cables are dauting as this full on shot reflects.

Note if you will, the steep gradient to the right. I call this side “oblivion.”  Never-never land lies just over the edge – 2,000 feet of clear air and the express route down to the valley. On October 1, 2006, Scott (then 21) was hiking Half Dome in marginal weather conditions. Generally heavy cloud cover with dampness in the air as shown in this photo taken in the morning.


By early afternoon he had made it to the top but realized it was time to come down. But by then the cable route was moist making his footing tentative in his sneakers. He bundled up his wind shell and continued down the cables. About half way down it got too slick and he sat down to scoot the rest of the way. After a while his pants got wet and his hands (despite gloves) were cold from holding on to the steel cable. He decided to stand up and put the cable under his left arm pit as a way to hang on. Suddenly he lost his footing and slipped under the cable and began to slide on his back on the east side.

Further from the cables he went – down nearly 200 feet. The baggy sweat pants he was wearing that day bunched up and gave him a “wedgie.” This would normally be funny but this is what saved his life. It slowed him down enough that he got hooked on a stony outcropping. He finally stopped parallel to and about 100 feet to the east of the base of the cables. Beneath him lie a 2,000 foot drop and certain death. Nearby hikers tossed him a nylon rope that he tied around his hand. The other end was too short be secured to the cable, so 2 men held it tight. 

Help was summoned via cell phone to 911 and a helicopter rescue team requested. It was a busy rescue day and the helicopters were on other missions. For THREE hours Clancy lay motionless while maintaining maximum friction with the surface to avoid any further slippage. He told me that he did not see his life pass in front of him. Rather, he could not believe that he was in this odd predicament. For some reason he did not panic and freak out – he did not realize just how close to the end he came. Finally, rescuers attached ropes to the cables and rappelled out to him. They traversed back, bringing him to safety. He was unhurt, but near hypothermia as he thanked the deity for giving him another lease on life. Today he flies helicopters in Louisiana. Nerves of steel.

(c) 2010 Rick Deutsch

Related thought worth quoting: “Slip sliding away, slip sliding away. You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip sliding away.” – Simon and Garfunkel
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


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