Two climbers were rescued today after they spent a night in the North Gully on The Chief.
The story was posted to the Squamish Rock Climbing group on Facebook and one of the climbers, Christina Marie, wrote about their experience (see below). Her write-up is a good reminder to others venturing out into the mountains this spring to be prepared, visit here for an ongoing conversation about the climb and rescue.
Yes, it was an interesting ramble up the North Gully. We made several small poor choices that resulted in a rather embarrassing and unfortunate call to SAR. But we are incredibly thankful for their very professional help and are very lucky to have such an incredible organization in this town. Overall, we spent a cold night in the snowy gully and learned a lot of good lessons about planning and preparation. As a bit of background (on the rescuee side of things), we started up the North Gully (too) late in the day with two cliff bars each, a few pieces of gear, and a small rope.
We thought it would be a fun (ok, interesting?) Sunday outting on a rainy day. It was very wet and cold (it was snowing) but also very beautiful in there. Around the halfway point we started to experience severe muscle spasms from the cold (we had been literally climbing through waterfalls and were fully soaked) and inadequate nutrition (we needed food with more salts/electrolytes – not just cliff bars). However, we’ve been told that you shouldn’t down climb because its very loose and slimy so we kept moving up. We had made it almost to the top (we were in the last big chockstone – likely less than a pitch from the top?) but we stopped there. At this point, it was dark, snowy, my headlamp had died in the water (I had fresh batteries but they were no use), the phone with the directions had died in the water, and the other phone had only 2% (likely due to cold). We were uncertain of the exact way to go but we knew we needed to make a few unprotected, committing 5.7 moves on snowy wet rock to get higher.
Given the severe muscle spams and cramps we had been experiencing we felt it would be quite risky to make those moves. At this point, we needed to make a tough decision between trying to make those moves and potentially failing and not having the ability to call for help, or calling for help. After some fast consideration, we called for help that evening. The SAR team decided it was unwise to go up/down the gully at night, so we had a lovely night in the gully to ponder better planning and preparation. Once morning came we considered getting ourselves out, but given that an evacuation was underway, and we had no way to communicate with the SAR team, and were also quite weak from a sleepless night on the ledge, we decided to stay put. We are fully aware that such calls are expensive, put rescuer health at risk, and are not a good substitute for proper planning!! We learned a lot of good lessons that day and will make much wiser choices in the future.