Miserable Weather Makes for Tough Climbing Rescue in Yosemite National Park

A multi-agency response led to the safe rescue of three climbers from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Photos by Kari Cobb, NPS.

Rescue missions can be tough in the best of weather, but when three climbers are safely plucked from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park amid deteriorating weather, you just have to tip your hat to the climbing rangers and helicopter pilots for getting the job done.

The rescue started late Sunday morning when park officials got word that a 24-year-old climber, Sarah Land, of Oakhurst, California, had received a glancing blow from a falling boulder estimated to weigh about 200 pounds. At first the young woman and her companions -- Walker Mackey, 25, and Rio Mackey, 23, both of Boulder, Colorado -- tried to finish the climb to the top of the 7,563-foot granite wall, according to a park report of the incident.

However, due to Ms. Land’s unspecified injuries, she called back at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday and asked for assistance. With daylight dwindling, Yosemite's rangers were not able to bring in a helicopter or initiate the rescue and the trio was forced to spend the night on the wall.

On Monday morning, amid foggy conditions and the threat of snow, Yosemite officials contacted the Law Enforcement Division of the California Emergency Management Agency to seek assistance in the rescue effort. They contacted the Army National Guard, which dispatched a Chinook helicopter to Yosemite Valley to assist in the rescue efforts. The military helicopter transported rescue personnel to the top of El Capitan, where park rangers Matt Stark and Chris Bellino were lowered to the climbers, according to a park release.

Once the rangers were with the climbers, the group was lowered to the base of El Capitan. A California Highway Patrol helicopter then short-hauled Ms. Land to El Capitan Meadow where she was transported out of Yosemite Valley.

Park officials did not have details on the extent of the woman's injuries, other than to describe them as moderate. Her companions were not hurt.

More than 30 Yosemite rangers, Yosemite Search and Rescue team members, and others assisted in this complex technical rescue.

Comments

As a person that has benefited from the expertise and professionalism by both Helicopter Pilots with night vision and Ranger Todd Seliga at GCNP/Phantom Ranch in the early morning darkness, I have nothing but gratitude and respect for what they do.
They do a great job but have to say this wouldn't have happened if they had been riding mules, LOLOL!
Rock On

maybe the climers should have to pay the rescusers,i cannot understand why people put theirselfs in such positions..and put rescue in a bad situations,there should be some kind of plan in place to not allow climing in certain months,;and the rescued should have to pay for their rescue.thank you.

What a great job these people do during these kinds of rescues. I don't climb or anything like that, however, I enjoy the parks as a visitor and appreciate having them available to those who may get into a difficult situation.

I'm more than glad to have some of my tax dollars fund that. No regrets here, I'm sure some of my tax dollars go to stuff I wouldn't support, however, at the end....it all evens out.

Cheers.

I may agree with you Destroyerman if the climbers in question had done something stupid. A falling 200 pound rock had decided, after millions of years of clinging to the wall, to fall. This is an unavoidable incident. The weather turned bad, as I read it, long after the climb would have concluded were it not for a once in a million years rock fall. I personally have never had the guts to climb, but I say more power to those that do. I do a lot of solo hiking in the parks and I appreciate the fact that expertise of that nature may save my sorry butt should I break a leg, fall off a ledge, or go missing. Before you tell me I am stupid for solo hiking I am smart enough to carry a SPOT device and I know and accept the risk I am taking.

Like Marty Koch, I also solo hike in the park, but not all trails. I choose wisely when I do, one because I will be 62 in February and the other for safety. Some of the trails in the park are not as widely used, so I try to pick the ones that there are more people hiking. Since I live in Oregon, my trips to Yosemite are far apart, but I have been in the park when others have need of being rescued.

My friend and I was hiking the 4-mile trail in June 2009. We were on the way back down from Glacier Point when we came in contact with 3 women. All three were in flip-flops; the older woman was extremely heavy and having difficulty. As we passed them, the older woman fell. We assisted her in getting up. But she said she was fine. About an 30 minutes later, one of the younger girls was RUNNING down the trail to get help. The woman had hurt her knee and ankle when she well. Once we reached the trailhead we sat and ate our dinner. The rangers came and headed up the trail to get the woman. We left before they returned.

I am grateful that my dollars go out to help these people. But I have to agree with destroyerman as well. Hikers and climbers can get themselves into some difficult situations. But in this situation, the climber had no knowledge of the rock which fell. I believe that during the winter months, that climbing should be limited or restricted for safety reasons only. In other countries I know that the climbers climb year round no matter the weather conditions. People in our country don't always get the training or skills that they need before tackling something as challenging as climbing or hiking in rough terrain.

I pray that this young lady was not hurt badly and that she is recovering quickly as well. My hats off to the people that also risk their lives to save others. I am grateful we have these facilities in our parks.