|Park helicopter 551 and ranger Keith Lober short-haul the injured climber off of the Nose route on El Capitan. NPS photo by Clay Usinger.|
Taken from the National Park Service Morning Report: August 39, 2010. Another incredible feat of courage by National Park Rangers to rescue visitors in trouble.
Park dispatch received a report of an injured climber on a climbing route known as The Nose on El Capitan on the evening of Tuesday, August 24th. He was a 47-year-old Korean national, part of a four-person Korean climbing team. Rangers were unable to communicate with the climbers due to a language barrier, so little information was available at the outset. It was eventually determined that he’d dislodged a large rock just below the Camp 4 bivy site, that he was in stable condition, and that he was unable to climb further. A helicopter short-haul mission was planned to extricate him from the rock face, but had to be cancelled due to the shear vertical wall at the climbing party’s location. A small technical rescue team was sent to the top of El Capitan to lower an attendant to him, but that operation had to be suspended due to darkness. A plan was formulated by IC Shannon Kupersmith to send supplemental personnel first thing the following morning to support the lowering operation. On Wednesday, additional personnel were flown to the summit of El Capitan for the technical lowering operation. Prior to the start of the mission a spotter in El Capitan Meadow was able to communicate with the climbing party and determine that the man might be paralyzed in his lower extremities. Two medics who reached the scene stabilized the climber and packaged him in a litter. An alternate plan to immediately evacuate him from the wall using the "bean bag/short-haul" technique was employed. This technique involves sending a line from the hovering helicopter to the attendant/medic. The attendant/medic then retrieves a tag line attached to the short-haul line from the helicopter while the helicopter maintains a safe rotor distance from the vertical rock face. One attendant then attached himself and the climber to the short-haul line, which was followed by immediate release from the wall anchor. He was then flown to El Capitan meadow and medevaced to a hospital. The remaining members of the climbing team were unable to lower themselves off the route due to their lack of experience and also had to be rescued. Two additional lowering operations were conducted to evacuate the Korean climbers off El Capitan’s 3,000-foot face. These operations were conducted on the hottest day of the summer to date, with the temperature over 100 degrees.