YOSAR Saves Climber (and Thumb)
Three days ago, Yosemite Search and Rescue pulled off an impressive rescue on El Capitan after an Austrian climber took a fall and severed his thumb (his aid sling pinched it off). Thanks to El Cap Report’s Tom Evans (read about ECR’s comeback here), who witnessed the event from his post on the El Cap Bridge, photos are available for viewing here.
Thankfully for the climber, the severed digit landed on the ledge where his partner, Richard Edelsbacher, was belaying. Also thankfully, the pair had a cell phone and were able to get in touch with climbers on top of Half Dome, who coordinated a rescue with YOSAR.
After making a plan in the El Cap Meadow with the rescue helicopter on hand, YOSAR decided to fly rangers Jeff Webb and Dave Pope up with the chopper, hanging from a 100-foot rope, to be pulled into the belay stance by the waiting climbers. They used a bean bag attached to cord as the connecting factor, and were able to toss the bag to the climbers to be pulled into the wall.
"I have never seen such a mission on an EC rescue, as the chopper would be awfully close to the face, and it isn’t that easy to pull people hanging on a rope 30 feet or so into a stance," Evans said on his blog. "The late afternoon light was fading fast, so they sent the chopper, flown brilliantly by Richard Shatto, up to take a look and judge if the wind conditions were within limits."
Pope and the injured climber were lowered by the helicopter to El Cap Meadow, before being transported to San Francisco General, while Webb stayed on the ledge with Edelsbacher for the night (they were hauled off the next morning).
Apparently, the thumb reattachment was successful.
Thanks to Tom Evans for a detailed report and impressive photos of the incident. Also, a big thumbs-up to YOSAR for their creativity and aptitude for rescues.