FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — As Lawrence Bishop lay battered and bruised, clinging to a narrow ledge of slick granite high in the Sierra Nevada, Deputy David Rippe made a split-second decision that likely saved him.
Without ropes, Rippe scrambled 300 feet up a 70-degree slope of granite polished smooth by eons of snow and ice to secure Bishop with nylon webbing he happened to have in his pocket.
“I knew I had to get their quickly and safely,” Rippe, a member of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, said Wednesday. “He looked like he was going to fall at any moment, and I was just hoping I could get there before he did.”
Saturday’s dramatic rescue was completed when a high-altitude Highway Patrol helicopter hoisted Bishop off the 10,295-foot peak, capping a 24-hour search for the 64-year-old man who had become separated from his group nearly two days earlier.
Bishop, retired from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told rescuers he thought he could navigate his way down the dome of granite. Instead, he said he fell twice and ended up spending nearly two days and two nights on the side of Dog Tooth Peak in Dinky Lakes Wilderness 45 miles northeast of Fresno.
For most of that time, he was laying at a 70-degree angle, holding onto a six-inch ledge to keep from sliding down the mountain. By Saturday he had begun to give up hope that he could hold on long enough to be found, he told the Los Angeles Times.
“I was quivering; I couldn’t hold on any longer. Then I saw five to six guys below in orange, and there was a surge of adrenaline from hope. I tried to grasp the rock,” he said.
The folks in orange were members of the sheriff’s volunteer search and rescue team who were walking a grid looking for any sign of Bishop, whose backpack had been located earlier in the day at the top of the peak.
Bishop let out a moan. Rippe thought he heard him.
“I turned to another deputy and said, ‘did you hear that?’” Rippe said.
Deputy Greg Villanueva said he thought he had heard something too, just as a helicopter passed overhead.
The deputies waved off the chopper and listened again. Villanueva quickly spotted Bishop, his dark shirt and pants blending into the side of the mountain.
“He looked like he was just about ready to fall,” said Rippe, who yelled: “‘Don’t move, we’re coming to get you.’”
The rest of the astonished team watched as Rippe scrambled up the side of the granite slope.
Russ Richardson, head of the volunteer search crew, said Rippe’s climb without rope or other equipment was “stressful and amazing.”
When he reached Bishop, Rippe put his hand on his shoulder then looped the 20-foot section of webbing between the man’s legs and over a narrow ledge.
Standard procedure is to have a helicopter lower a “screamer suit,” sort of a full-body sling in which injured people can be loaded and then hoisted to safety. But with no room to work, Rippe told Bishop his only option was a less secure cinch collar, which fits under a person’s arms like a life preserver. With legs dangling, Bishop was hoisted by the helicopter to safety.
Rippe’s main duty is investigating Internet sex crimes against children. He said the danger he defied while scaling the granite promontory that was far steeper than Yosemite’s Half Dome didn’t frighten him until he thought about it later.
“At the time I was fine, but afterward is another story,” he said. “When I was up there I looked down and saw where I had gone and it looked a lot different to me than it did in the beginning. It really made me stop and think.”
More Related Stories
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
- Promotion for NYPD cop who cost city $1.5m in settlements
- Obama to all-male university graduates: Be the best husband to "your boyfriend or partner"
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- GOP attorney general candidate tried to force women to report miscarriages to police
- Chinese hackers resume attacks against U.S.
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11