August 20, 2013
Near dusk on August 13, 2013, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a report of two climbers requesting assistance near the top of North Dome Gully. Park rangers made phone contact with the party, who denied injury but was nearly out of water after ascending the Royal Arches climbing route that day. The climbers were also experiencing route-finding difficulties in the gully and felt they could no longer descend. Rangers asked the two to bivouac in a safe location until the following morning, when two Valley search and rescue team members hiked to their location, provided them with water, and guided them down the descent route without incident.
Royal Arches is one of many classic rock climbs in Yosemite Valley, but it presents significant challenges that can force climbers to spend an unexpected night on top or even require rescue. Though only of moderate difficulty (5.7 A0 or 5.10b), the route rises over 1,400 feet, is often crowded, and usually requires several hours to descend. If things do not go as planned, climbers may top out much later than expected, leaving them to rappel or hike down in the dark. North Dome Gully, one of the descent routes for Royal Arches, is notorious for its exposure, loose rock, and difficult route-finding. Darkness compounds all these challenges. Climbers should always come prepared with headlamps, extra food and water, and knowledge of their intended descent as well as alternative descent options before leaving the ground.