to. Luck­ily, it worked out fine de­spite Thomp­son’s trep­i­da­tion at us­ing a ter­ri­bly wrong tool for low­er­ing res­cuers nearly 3,000 feet. Nei­ther of the 4,400-foot-long rolls were ever used by the park.

Lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments drove the ropes to nearby El Toro Marine Air Station. They were then flown to El Cap Meadow in two large, twin-ro­tor CH-46 he­li­copters. Other re­tail out­door com­pa­nies in the Bay Area, such as The Ski Hut and The North Face, sent real climb­ing rope as well as a seem­ingly end­less sup­ply of col­ored ny­lon web­bing, hun­dreds of cara­bin­ers, 150 bolts, dozens of pitons, pi­ton ham­mers, wa­ter bot­tles, dried food, and other long ac­ces­sory lines and cords. These pur­chases were all picked up by the Bay Area Moun­tain Res­cue Unit and trans­ported by the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol.

Be­fore they re­turned to their home base at El Toro that evening, the Marine Corps flew more equip­ment and man­power to the stag­ing scene on top of El Capitan. There was a pile of equip­ment on the peak that night that had to be sorted and then placed in the right spot for the next morn­ing. Dur­ing the height of the stretcher low­er­ing later in the day, sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple stood along the road and in the meadow, at the base of El Cap, most with their binoc­u­lars pointed to­ward the cliff.

Six of the Camp 4 SAR-site climbers, in­clud­ing Bev John­son, rap­pelled down to Camp V that first af­ter­noon. Up top, the op­er­a­tion was mostly en­gi­neered by Loyd Price, although all of the climbers knew what to do and pitched in. They knot­ted to­gether enough yacht­ing ropes to cre­ate two 3,000-foot lengths. One rope made a di­rec­tional change at the vic­tim’s tiny ledge far be­low; the other ran straight from the fi­nal lip of El Capitan to Olsen’s lit­ter, at­tended by Camp 4 su­per­star Jim Brid­well. Although it took more than 36 hours to fully or­ches­trate, once un­der­way it took only 90 min­utes for the two to be low­ered down the re­main­ing 1,800 feet of sheer cliff. It went off with­out a hitch. The five still on the ledge, as well as Olsen’s part­ner, elected to come down that night, af­ter dark. Al Garza, the park’s chief elec­tri­cian, built a huge light bank and il­lu­mi­nated al­most the en­tire 3,000-foot face of the great cliff. Neal’s leg healed, and he continued to climb for the next four decades.

This mis­sion earned a De­part­ment of the In­te­rior Unit

Ci­ta­tion for the El Capitan Res­cue Team from Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior Rogers C. B. Mor­ton. It was granted in recog­ni­tion of the high de­gree of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and valor ex­hib­ited.

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