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Tragedy claims life of Half Dome climber

August 25, 2011

A man fell down the 2,000-foot northwest face of Half Dome in Yosemite Monday evening. Two local climbers witnessed the fall and assisted in the body recovery. Photo courtesy of

While preparing to climb the north face of Half Dome, two local climbers witnessed a man fall down the 2,000-foot precipice Monday evening.
According to a press release from Yosemite National Park, Ryan Leeder, 23, of Los Gatos, fell to his death at approximately 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22. The cause is still under investigation.
Yosemite Emergency Communication Center received a call of a person falling off the face of Half Dome, but due to the late hour, Yosemite National Park Rangers were unable to initiate search efforts Monday night, according to the press release.
Leeder’s body was located on Tuesday by helicopter and Park Rangers and Search and Rescue crews extricated the victim from the base of Half Dome.
The call to the center was made by two climbers who had had plans of climbing one of Yosemite’s most iconic rock faces.
According to local guide Howard Schwartz in his trip report, “Death on the NW Face of Half Dome,” the two were having dinner at the base of the climb and looking forward to climbing the face the next day.
Schwartz described how he and his climbing partner were startled by loud shouting and screaming from above at around 7 p.m. To their horror, they realized the shape they saw above them was a human being falling from the sky. “The sound of a human body free-falling down a 2,000-foot face is like the sound of a commercial jet near landing,” Schwartz wrote.
Schwartz and his climbing partner had a fitful night’s rest and awoke early to assist SAR teams with the clean-up.
According to the park, “At this stage, the incident appears to be accidental, and remains under investigation. There is no further information available at this time.”
This latest tragedy brings the death toll in Yosemite to 15 for the year.

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