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Re: Helicopter Rescue

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avatar Helicopter Rescue
March 12, 2009 10:19AM
The first helicopter rescue I ever saw didn't go so well and the woman they were trying to save drowned. That was during my first visit to Yosemite back in like 2001. I was in Yosemite again last spring and the weather was rapidly changing. It went from being upper 90s and sunny in the valley to 45 and snow/rain within four days.

Within an hour of reaching Yosemite Valley in the park, I stopped in the valley meadows to take some pictures of El Capitan and some other things. Then I heard a helicopter come overhead and quickly gain elevation until it was circling overhead about 4,000 feet above the valley floor. Once I saw it start circling at the top of El Capitan I knew something was up. After about fifteen minutes of searching they lowered what looked like either a basket or a person, it was too far for the naked eye, onto the top of the cliff. While the helicopter was hovering in place it gave me a chance to grab my telephoto lens. A few minutes later the helicopter came back up with two people in it (air rescue and the victim I'm guessing). They hauled ass out of there and back to the valley floor as a pretty nasty storm was blowing through the valley. I assume they wanted to get the guy to the valley floor before the storm arrived. I got a few pretty cool pictures of the rescue and them celebrating on the valley floor when they got him back safely.

Some other climbers on El Cap:

Post Edited (03-12-09 10:25)
Re: Helicopter Rescue
March 12, 2009 03:52PM
Nice photos; it's hard to be in the right spot to see what's going on when you hear a helicopter there. Good thing you had a pretty strong telephoto, you definitely needed it for these shots. Any idea what happened?

Seems like helicopter rescues are a pretty common ocurrence all year. I heard and saw the one getting the avalanche-buried guy near Half Dome in the early morning on our last visit a couple of weeks ago. Couldn't get pics though, too many trees in the way from where I was.

Your reference to last spring reminded me of the extreme weather then. After a big snowstorm, it seemed our mid-late May trip up Half Dome would be nice, but we cooked in miserable hot weather even at elevation. The only good part was all the snow to cool our heads.

Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Helicopter Rescue
March 12, 2009 04:27PM
You really get a sense for how big El Capitan is when you see the little ants on it. Nice photos!
avatar Re: Helicopter Rescue
March 12, 2009 07:16PM
I have no idea what happened. Maybe the climbers were just exhausted or injured already, saw the incoming storm, and said, "I've had enough." I didn't talk to any of the rescue crew.

I was just happy this one went well. The one I witnessed in 2001 was when an Asian lady slipped into Emerald Pool and drowned. By the time the divers got her out she had probably been submerged for almost an hour. I wasn't there to see her slip in, but I was there to see all the panicked people calling for help and also to see the divers being dropped out of a helicopter. I was really young back then and didn't own a camera, so I don't have any pictures of that. I think I'm bad luck when I go to Yosemite. Three out of three times I've seen a rescue or serious injury.
avatar Re: Helicopter Rescue
March 12, 2009 08:52PM
There are so many rescues a year in Yosemite it is not surprising you have seen two in the three trips you have been there. It's not you.

Old Dude
Re: Helicopter Rescue
March 12, 2009 09:18PM
Slipping into the Emerald Pool is pretty hazardous; it's not far to the falls from there, and at some times of year can be a deadly mistake to get a little careless there.

Don't give a thought to being 'bad luck'. Nearly every time we go there, something just happened, happens when we are there, or we see a rescue operation and find out later what it was. A couple of Half Dome trips ago a guy had fallen in above Vernal Fall, and they hadn't found him yet when we got there. They did find him, still in the river below the fall, but we probably walked right by on our way up.

Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
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