FRESNO — As Lawrence Bishop lay battered, bruised and weakened from two days without food or water, 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 there 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, a retired hazardous waste specialist from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told rescuers he had tried to descend the dome of granite in Dinky Lakes Wilderness 45 miles northeast of Fresno after he summited Dog Tooth Peak on Thursday then chose what turned out to be a hazardous route down.