Selected Rescues - YOSAR responded to ___ calls in 2011
10-5-2011 SPOT ACTIVATION in UPPER SLIDE CANYON
YOSAR received a report from Yosemite dispatch of a SPOT emergency beacon sending a 911 signal from the Upper Slide Canyon in the Northern high country of Yosemite. Triggered at approximately 0827 hours on 10/4/11, the beacon belonged to a 63 year old male who had left on Saturday, 10/1/11 out of Twin Lakes for a multi-day hiking trip with a companion. The group was set to return Wednesday, 10/5/11 and was aware of upcoming weather conditions before embarking on the expedition. A winter storm had put 9-inches of snow on the ground at Tuolumne Meadows and up to 20 additional inches was in the forecast for the high country. A helicopter rescue team was placed on standby at Crane Flat helibase in the event that the weather cleared. Due to the inclement weather, dangerous road conditions, and a significant hike to the SPOT activation area, a ground team was designated to gear up and head in the next day. The SPOT coordinates were about 10 miles from the trailhead in rugged terrain, covered in several feet of new snow. On 10/6/11, snow was still falling and visibility was insufficient for helicopter flight. The ground crew started hiking from Twin Lakes trailhead and was able to make it approximately 2 miles from the stranded group before setting up camp due to fatigue. The next day presented with clear weather. The ground team was underway by 0600 and made contact with the hikers at 0815, both were unharmed. The helicopter team was already in the air and continued to the area where they landed and evacuated the two hikers. The two hikers admitted that they had been aware of the forecast before setting out, but thought that the weather would arrive later in the week. When the heavy snow began to fall, they felt unable to continue on foot and elected to activate the SPOT beacon.
10-7-11 HELICOPTER RESCUE OF OVERDUE HIKING PARTY
Yosar was notified of a group of four male hikers who were 48 hours overdue while on a seven day backpacking expedition. The reporting party related that the group hoped to complete a 50-mile backpacking loop beginning and ending in Yosemite Valley. The group’s tardiness, in concert with a fast moving pre-winter storm that produced over two feet of snow in high elevations, suggested a health and safety risk for the group. A plan was formulated to use the park contract helicopter with rescue personnel to fly the intended backpacking loop in search of the group. The helicopter rescue crew was able to locate the group, land in the area, and make contact. All group members were uninjured but could not negotiate through the heavy snow accumulation. All involved were flown to the Crane Flat Helibase from lower Ottoway Lake.
10/9/11 HELICOPTER RESCUE RESPONDING TO A 911 “SPOT” ACTIVATION AT BREEZE CREEK DRAINAGE AREA
YOSAR received a report from Yosemite dispatch of a SPOT emergency beacon sending a 911 signal from the Breeze Creek Drainage in Yosemite National Park at 1559, 10/09/11. The activated device belonged to a duo of hikers made up of a 57 year old male and his 21 year old son. The hiker’s wife stated she had received an “OK” signal from the beacon, and 45 minutes later a 911 alert. A helicopter crew was assembled for aerial recon in order to discover the precise SPOT activation location and determine if the mission would require short haul extrication. At 1654 helicopter 551 left from Crane Flat Helibase headed towards the Breeze Creek Drainage area. The crew spotted an orange sleeping pad at the coordinate location along with two subjects camped near an unnamed lake. The campers were identified as the lost party and transported back to Crane Flat Helibase without incident. The 57 year old male had sustained a minor ankle injury however both individuals were largely safe and unharmed. They explained that they had underestimated the weather conditions and became disoriented after an unanticipated snow storm. While finding their bearings, the father injured his ankle and the two hikers found themselves on difficult and dangerous terrain, unable to continue. Concerned about additional bad weather and running out of supplies, they decided to activate the SPOT beacon.
10-15-2011 CLIMBER EVACUATED BY SHORT HAUL FROM ROYAL ARCHES CLIMBING ROUTE
On October 15, 2011, at 1535 hours, YOSAR received a call from a climber on the Royal Arches route, reporting that her 27 year old female climbing partner had taken a lead fall on the 12th pitch. The caller also reported that her partner suffered a suspected broken ankle, contusions, lacerations, and was acting abnormally, though was conscious throughout. SAR team members were dispatched as a hasty response, climbing the Royal Arches route to the injured climber’s location. They determined that her injuries were not life-threatening, but that she did need evacuation. A risk assessment was performed, comparing a high-angle technical lowering operation with a short haul helicopter extrication. Due to numerous factors, including impending nightfall, short haul extrication via helicopter was initiated and the patient was evacuated to the Ahwahnee Meadow.
08/06/2011 – HELICOPTER EVACUATION of TRAUMA VICTIM ON MIST TRAIL
A 17-year-old male suffered multi-system trauma on the steps of the Mist Trail after slipping and falling down several steps and striking his head on a rock. A park employee was first on scene with the patient, and was joined by park rangers, who provided ALS care for the unresponsive victim. A YOSAR litter team carried the patient to an opening where a helicopter short-haul could be performed to evacuate the patient from the trail. The patient was then helo-evacuated to the hospital, where he unfortunately died due to his injuries.
07/31/2011 – FATALITY on HALF DOME
A woman lost her life after slipping from the Half Dome cables during a significant thunder and lightning storm and sliding several hundred feet down the north side of the dome. Witnesses reported her falling from approximately the middle to lower section of the cables, and were unsure whether she slipped due to the rain or from being struck by lightning. Due to the hazardous weather, rescue personnel were unable to get to the scene for nearly half an hour, whereupon the woman’s body was sighted using the park Helicopter. Rangers were short-hauled to her location where she was pronounced dead at the scene.
07/19/2011 – VERNAL FALLS TRIPLE FATALITY
Three members of a hiking group – a 21 year old female and two males, age 22 and 27 – lost their lives after being swept over Vernal Falls. YOSAR responded to the scene following multiple 911 calls reporting the incident. The victims were assumed to have died instantly. Several recovery teams were assembled immediately to begin searching for the three below Vernal Falls. Witnesses reported that the victims were sitting at the edge of the river just above the falls, outside of the protective railing. One male slipped and fell into the water and the second victim was subsequently swept in as she attempted to assist her companion. The third victim was also swept over the falls while trying to assist the first two. All three bodies were eventually recovered by ground search teams and dog teams in August, November and December respectively.
During the months of May and June there were dozens of minor calls where YOSAR personnel assisted visitors with numerous ailments, lost parties, and searching for overdue parties. Methods of helping visitors out of the backcountry included horses, helicopters, crutches, wheeled litters, lending arms and shoulders, and just being there to help encourage them and being nearby should they need further assistance.
06/29/2011 – DOUBLE FATALITY – WAPAMA FALLS BRIDGE
Two backpackers were killed in the early morning after being swept off of the bridge at Wapama Falls while attempting to cross during hazardous conditions. The water volume in the falls had risen significantly the night before due to several days of heavy rain, and at the time of the incident water was falling in violent streams directly onto the bridge. The two men, both 53, were at the end of a multi-day backpacking trip with three others and decided to try to cross the bridge despite the high water conditions. A CCC trail crew member arrived on the other side of the bridge as the two were crossing and attempted to communicate with them not to pass. The first man started forward, slipped, and was forced under the bridge railing by the water, while the second attempted to help him and was also forced off the bridge. YOSAR was notified by the CCC member, and immediately dispatched swiftwater and technical teams to search below the falls, as well as a search boat on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. One body was recovered later the same day and the other was recovered several weeks later.
6-27-11 HELICOPTER EVACUATION FROM LITTLE YOSEMITE VALLEY
A 28 year old female was flown from Little Yosemite Valley to Crane Flat Helibase via the park helicopter after suffering nausea, diarrhea, and general malaise for approximately 36 hours. Due to significant right and left quadrant abdominal pain and positive orthostatic vitals, the decision was made to evacuate via helicopter. From Crane Flat the patient was transferred to an awaiting park ambulance and transported to the Yosemite Medical Clinic.
6-18-11 HELICOPTER EVACATION FROM SUMMIT OF HALF DOME
YOSAR was notified of a 32 year old male needing medical assistance on the summit of Half Dome. The caller stated the sick person was fatigued with muscle cramping and was unable to return to the trailhead on his own power after ascending Half Dome when the cable were down. A Park Ranger Ryan Hiller was sent from Little Yosemite Valley to assess the person and assist him down. Members of the sick person’s party called to inform YOSAR that they planned to lower the person down the cable route and would meet the ranger on the sub-dome. As the Ranger Hiller arrived on the sub-dome at approximately 1900 hrs, a member of the party informed him that the sick person was unable to move on his own and was still on the summit and lying down. Fortunately a major search operation was under way for a missing hiker and the park helicopter was nearby and available. Due to the serious but conflicting nature of the on-scene reports, impending nightfall, and the possibility of a long and arduous carry out, the park helicopter was called in to evacuate the patient. As the helicopter was landing the patient had already begun a roped descent of the cables route, but the Ranger Jason Ramsdale helped to bring the patient back up to the summit (approximately 150’) and loaded the patient into the helicopter with the helitack crew. The helicopter then flew to the Crane Flat Helibase where the patient was transferred to Sonora Regional Hospital via ground ambulance for further evaluation. Dehydration was determined to be the primary cause of the hiker’s immobility.
6-15-11 HELICOPTER EVACUATION OF CLIMBER AFTER 60’ FALL ON ZODIAC ROUTE OF EL CAPITAN
YOSAR was advised of a climber who took a 60’ leader fall on the first pitch of Zodiac, hitting the ground and sustaining injuries during the fall. Park Rangers Chris Bellino and Britta Duffy responded to the base and determined that helicopter short haul would be the most efficient method of extracting the patient due to terrain, length of time to perform the rescue, and number of personnel that would be needed for a ground rescue. Ranger Jeff Webb was short hauled to the scene. The patient was packaged by the rangers and extracted out to El Cap Meadow by helicopter. The patient was then flown via air ambulance to Modesto for further evaluation.
6-12-11 EL CAPITAN RESCUE ON THE MUIR WALL, INVOLVING LOWERING AND RAISING OPERATIONS
YOSAR received a 911 call from a solo aid climber on the Muir Wall on El Capitan who took a leader fall and landed on a slab, sustaining an isolated ankle/foot injury. It was determined that the injury was not life threatening. After several phone calls with the injured climber he decided that he could not safely rappel down or continue leading up with his injuries. The following morning crews were flown to the top of El Capitan, and with the help of spotters on the valley floor, an appropriate location was found to initiate the rescue. The climber was at the top of the 23rd pitch, approximately 900-1000 feet below the summit. One rescuer, Ranger Jesse McGahey, was lowered to the injured climber, and then both the ranger and the climber along with the climbers gear were raised to the summit of El Capitan. The climber was assisted to the helicopter at the summit of El Capitan, flown to the Crane Flat Helibase, and transported to the hospital via park ambulance for further care. See the first hand account from the rescued climberhere.
6-1-11 SNOWBOARDER WITH BROKEN FEMUR ON MT DANA, HELICOPTER EVACUATION
YOSAR received a mutual aid requested from Mono County SAR to assist with a snowboarder who had sustained a broken femur on Mt Dana. Mono County requested YOSAR due to the remote location and the likely necessity of a helicopter short haul rescue. Two YOSAR members along with helitack crew members were flown to the Mt Dana area for a reconnaissance flight. YOSAR determined that the most appropriate method of extraction would be helicopter short haul. One YOSAR personnel was inserted to the scene where there were several Mono County SAR personnel, including a physician who had stabilized the patient’s leg and cleared the patient’s spine for injuries. The patient was secured into the litter and extracted to a landing zone on Highway 120 and an awaiting ambulance. The patient was transferred to the Mono County paramedics and transported to the Mammoth Hospital for further treatment.
5-31-11 CLIMBER FALL ON SNAKE DIKE RESULTS IN LEG INJURY AND HELICOPTER EVACUATION
YOSAR was notified of a 22 year old male who took a 100’ ground-level fall at the base of Snake Dike on Half Dome and sustained an isolated lower leg injury. The patient had pain, numbness and tingling in the injured extremity and could hear the noise of “bone grinding on bone.” Due to the remote location of the accident YOSAR decided to use a helicopter to short haul the patient from the accident site to the Ahwahnee Meadow. Ranger Aaron Smith was short hauled to the scene and splinted the climber’s leg. Both Smith and the climber were extracted by helicopter back to the valley floor without incident. The patient was then transported via park ambulance to the hospital for further evaluation.
5-24-11 ASSISTANCE PROVIDED TO LOST AND EXHAUSTED HIKER
YOSAR was notified of a 20 year old male who became lost while hiking with friends near Half Dome. The lost person made cell contact with YOSAR and requested a helicopter rescue. He was directed on how to get back to the trail after determining his approximate location by surrounding landmark descriptions. After several phone conversations over several hours, the person decided that he could no longer move forward nor go back the way he had come. The person told YOSAR that he was too weak with hunger and exhaustion and could not go any further and again requested a helicopter. Due to sunset approaching, two YOSAR team members were sent up the trail starting at 1830 hrs to locate the patient. Once located the patient was given food and water and was hiked back to the valley floor without incident.
5-21-11 CARRYOUT FROM UPPER YOSEMITE FALLS TRAIL
YOSAR members were involved in a lengthy carry-out via wheeled litter from just below the rim on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. The report was for a 16 year old male weighing 250 pounds who had sustained a lower leg injury. Initial responders requested extra personnel due to the patient’s weight and difficult trail conditions, along with it now being dark. A total of 16 responders were needed for a long and arduous wheeled litter evacuation, with the patient arriving to the trailhead at 2200 hours.
5-19-11 HIKER FATALITY ON UPPER YOSEMITE FALLS TRAIL
YOSAR was notified of an unresponsive male 47 year-old male patient approximately ¼ mile up the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Rangers, YOSAR, and EMS personnel responded to the scene where bystander CPR was in progress. Despite numerous advanced life support procedures the patient was pronounced dead in the field and the subject was evacuated by a litter team without incident. The cause of the death may have been cardiac arrest.
5-13-11 HIKER FATALITY ON MIST TRAIL, TECHNICAL RECOVERY OPERATION ABOVE SWIFTWATER.
YOSAR was notified that a male had fallen in the Merced River near the granite steps above the junction with the John Muir Trail. The first responder found the subject submersed in fast flowing water and partially pinned under a rock. The subject was in the river 100’ below a steep granite slab that prevented safe immediate access. It was determined that the length of submersion and visible injuries were not compatible with life and the operation was converted to a recovery operation. The next day a complex high line system was constructed and the body was recovered without any complications. Ranger Ed Visnovske led the recovery operation.
5-13-11 HIKER FATALITY ON UPPER YOSEMITE FALLS TRAIL.
YOSAR was notified of a 35 year-old male who had fallen and hit his head high up on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Park rangers and YOSAR members were dispatched to the scene. Despite numerous advanced life support procedures the patient was pronounced dead in the field and the subject was evacuated by a litter team without incident. A cardiac arrest or condition may have caused the fall.
5-12-11 TECHNICAL ASSIST TO CLIMBERS WITH STUCK ROPE
YOSAR was notified of a climber on the third pitch of the Regular Route on Sunny Side Slabs who was too scared to climb up or down. The rope had become stuck on a flake as the leader was pulling in slack to belay the second. Due to the inability to communicate, the second not knowing how to ascend the stuck rope, and the leader unwilling to down climb or rappel the rope, they decided to call 911. Two YOSAR team members climbed the route and assisted the stranded climbers to the top and safely down the climber’s trail.
2-4-11 60-YEAR-OLD MALE "CLIFFED-OUT" BELOW TUNNEL VIEW
At approximately 1930 hours, dispatch received a call from the friend of a hiker who had become lost while hiking down from inspiration point. The subject phoned his friend stating that he had lost the trail, his head lamp was dying, and that he was in a precarious position and unable to continue. Two Yosemite rescue personnel were sent to search for the lost hiker, who had started hiking from Tunnel View up to Inspiration Point, and lost the trail when he missed a switchback on his way back down. He hiked through the snow overtop of the tunnel and ended up getting cliffed out. He subsequently called for a rescue. Rescue personnel were able to locate him but unable to get to him safely due to the steep and loose terrain. Several other rescuers were called in to bring rigging equipment in order to safely access and egress with the subject. The subject was waiting on a small ledge with an emergency blanket when he was accessed via rappel at approximately 2:00 am. The rescue technician and subject climbed up the loose terrain to a safe location and hiked with the rest of the rescue team back to the Tunnel View parking lot at approximately 4:00 am.