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Climber Knocked Unconscious On El Capitan Climb

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avatar Climber Knocked Unconscious On El Capitan Climb
June 09, 2014 11:54AM
On Friday afternoon, May 30th, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a call from a climber on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. The caller reported that he saw a climber fall who was near them on the same route and then heard calls for help. The caller was connected with Supervisory Park Ranger Chris Bellino. Bellino asked the climbing party to ascend to the spot where help was requested, in order to assess the situation and determine whether a rescue was necessary. Upon their arrival, Ranger Bellino was able to talk with the injured man’s partner.

The injured climber, a 60-year-old man from New York, was approximately 1,500 feet up on El Capitan on The Nose, when he was attempting to execute a pendulum on a feature known as the King Swing. However, the attempt was made above the location where the pendulum typically occurs. Due to this, the climber overshot the swing and hit his head on a granite feature on the route. The man hit his head hard enough that he lost consciousness shortly after the impact. His partner was able to lower him to a feature known as Texas Flake, approximately 200 feet below the point of impact.

A rescue operation was launched based on this assessment, and the park’s contract helicopter was dispatched to Yosemite Valley. Yosemite District Ranger Jack Hoeflich and Yosemite National Park Ranger Aaron Smith were immediately flown via short-haul near the location of the injured climber. In order to successfully insert the rescuers onto the wall, Hoeflich threw a rope to the reporting party so they could pull him into the wall and secure himself on the ledge. Shortly thereafter, Smith was inserted into the same location.

Immediately upon arrival Hoeflich and Smith provided medical attention to the injured climber. Due to the lateness in the evening, the park helicopter flew a team of eight search and rescue personnel to the top of El Capitan to assist with the rescue, as it was becoming too dark to fly. Rangers determined the patient to be stable enough to spend the night on the ledge, with continued extrication the following morning. The patient, along with his climbing partner, were secured onsite and spent the night 1,500 feet up from the Valley floor on El Capitan with rangers Hoeflich and Smith.

The next morning, Saturday, May 31st, Yosemite Park Ranger Ed Visnovske was lowered from the summit of El Capitan to the climbers’ location, approximately 1,500 feet from the summit. The injured man, his partner, and their gear were then packaged and lowered another 1,500 feet with Visnovske to Yosemite Valley. The injured climber was provided additional medical care and transported to a local hospital where he was found to have a fracture in his c-spine.

Rangers Hoeflich and Smith successfully rappelled to Yosemite Valley with the rest of the climbing party’s gear.

Yosemite Supervisory Park Ranger Chris Bellino served as the Incident Commander for this rescue.
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