This past Sunday, a solo climber fell 200 feet from the side of California’s El Cajon Mountain, otherwise known as El Capitan. Previously, officials were not able to recover the body because of the combination of nightfall and the strenuous terrain. Earlier on Monday, though, a team from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department made the 11-mile trek to the fallen climber’s location and carried out his remains.
The hike to El Capitan’s rock face is not to be underestimated. According to San Diego Parks and Recreation, “This hike is considered strenuous and can take up to 6 hours to complete. There is very little shade along the way.” Of course, that’s not to say the trek isn’t worth the views along the way. “El Capitan Preserve boasts a view of three reservoirs from one location in the park. Some 11 miles of trails provide a rugged route along a granite-ribbed ridgeline with stunning views of both ocean and mountains.”
“By the time we were able to get to where the climber was, it’s about 2,500 feet in elevation, and it’s about a 2-hour hike to get to the climber,” a Watch Commander told CBS8. “So it made yesterday’s recovery impossible. It would have been nightfall as well as complicated getting back down.”
The final approach to El Cajon’s main face requires a two-mile, near-vertical haul of 1,800 feet. Once there, climbers have plenty of sport, trad and multi-pitch routes to choose from. Right now, it’s unclear which route the late solo climber chose before his unfortunate fall.
Authorities did not release any details on the solo climber’s identity or official cause of death.
Local Catches the Recovery Mission of the Solo Climber’s Remains on Camera
At the time that the San Diego Sheriff’s Department arrived, a local who was well familiar with the El Cajon Mountain trail caught the mission on his phone. Billy Ortiz has lived around the rock-climber-popular area for more than 60 years and understands why the recovery crew was so cautious during their efforts.
“It’s just as steep on the back side, if not steeper. It’s pretty wild. You have to go through a bunch of creeks, ravines, and dense brush,” he explained to CBS8.
As far as Ortiz has seen, there aren’t many climbers that brave the rock face solo. Instead, they use a two-person belay system to complete these risky routes.
“You’ll always see a couple of guys up there. They buddy up, up there. It’s too dangerous,” he said. “There’s only so much space where they can stand underneath at the bottom of the wedge. There were at least 40 cars down on the road, so many rock climbers were up there. Probably people hiking around too but mostly rock climbers.”