While hiking near the base of El Capitan in a snowstorm on the evening of December 28, climbers heard yells for help coming from the Zodiac route and reported the yelling to the park around 7:30 p.m. Ranger Jack Hoeflich hiked to the base of the route in the severe storm, arriving there about 11 p.m. With difficulty, Hoeflich located an unresponsive climber swinging in the wind on a rope about 25 feet above the ground and 15 feet out from the overhanging wall. Additional rangers and rescue team members arrived after 1 a.m. with rescue equipment. A rope was clipped to the climber with considerable effort, using a 25-foot "cheater stick" extendable pole. Hoeflich then ascended a fixed rope about 70 feet to the west of the stranded climber and hanging 15 feet out from the wall. Hoeflich trailed the rope that was attached to the climber. When he was at about the same level as the immobile climber, Hoeflich and the climber were pulled together by the team on the ground using the previously attached rope. Hoeflich rigged him to be lowered and the ground team let him down. Park medics and EMTs did CPR until he was declared dead by medical control via cell phone. The body was then littered over the snow-covered talus slope and hauled to the road shortly after 4 a.m. The climber was later identified as Joseph E. Crowe, 25, of San Jose, California. Witnesses confirmed that Crowe had been solo climbing the Zodiac.
[Submitted by David Horne, Supervisory Park Ranger/Team Leader]