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Rock Climber Rescued

Rock clmbr-01By Neil Farrell

For the second time in two weeks someone was caught trying to climb Morro Rock, and as before, no one was injured.
The latest climber was spotted about 2:45 p.m. Sunday, March 1. A sole climber was a couple of hundred feet up on the western side of the rock. He’d started his climb near giant boulders stacked up where a colony of feral cats once called home.
Two firefighters and a State Park ranger walked up to retrieve the trespasser, who was identified as Brandon Ream, 24 of Porterville by someone in his group of several friends. That person said Ream was out to experience new thrills. The friends stayed off the Rock and Ream was brought down without incident.
A witness said he’d fallen about 10 feet but Ream, who was covered with dirt about his face and neck but otherwise none the worse for his adventure, said he hadn’t fallen.
Where he climbed up is an area covered with poison oak, so he may have some tribulations to come, plus a hefty fine of about $1,800 to pay.
Back on Thursday, Feb. 19, three 15-year-old boys tried climbing the Rock on the eastern side overlooking the dirt parking lot. They didn’t get very high before being stranded. Again firefighters climbed up through a small forest of poison oak to get the boys down. No one was injured and the trio was cited as well.
Rock clmbr-02Though untold generations of local residents enjoyed climbing Morro Rock through the centuries, it was placed off limits by the State Legislature in the early 1970s and remains closed to climbers with the exception of firefighters conducting training exercises and the Salinans, which have permission to climb the 576-foot monolith at the winter and summer solstices to conduct religious ceremonies.
That privilege is currently being challenged by the Chumash in court. Every year on average a half dozen or so people are caught climbing the Rock, according to the harbor department. It’s unknown how many do it undetected but estimates are that about half are actually caught.
For a safe look at what climbing Morro Rock is like, see the “California’s Gold” TV series website. Host Huell Howser and a cameraman climbed the Rock in 1991 along with a state park ranger. Photos by Neil Farrell

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