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Around noon on October 11, while attempting to climb the Nose in a day, accomplished big-wall climber Quinn Brett fell approximately 100 feet and was seriously injured. According to an account from Tom Evans on El Cap Report, Brett fell from the Boot Flake feature, struck the Texas Flake below, and then fell into boulders at the base of the Texas Flake. Evans noted that the highest piece of protection clipped after the fall was at the top of the bolt ladder below the Boot Flake. It’s unclear what caused the fall, and if Brett had placed gear above the bolt that had pulled, or if she had run it out.
A witness report rapidly drew Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) to the scene. Two rangers, Aaron Smith and Brandon Lathum, were helicoptered to the site of the accident on the end of ropes. A ground team was also flown to the top of El Cap to begin a lowering operation in case high winds grounded the helicopter performing the cliff extraction. Brett’s climbing partner at the time of the accident, Josie Mckee, acted quickly, administering lifesaving maneuvers until help arrived. As a former YOSAR member, McKee was able to set up the ropes necessary for the rangers to reach them as quickly as possible. The actions of McKee and YOSAR were instrumental in saving Brett’s life.
Brett is alive and receiving treatment in the hospital. She is reportedly responsive and stable, but has suffered a serious spinal injury.
Brett has an impressive resume of Yosemite big wall achievements. In 2012, climbing with Jes Meiris, Brett set the female speed record for the Nose at 10 hours and 19 minutes (the record now belongs to Mayan Smith-Gobat and Libby Sauter). In 2014, Brett and Sauter climbed the Nose and Lurking Fear in less than 22 hours, making them the first female team to climb two El Cap routes in a day.
A YouCaring page has been set up for those that would like to donate to Brett’s medical expenses. As Sauter explained in a post on the Supertopo forum, “Quinn has insurance, but with the complexity and duration of the care she has and will need, her medical and new life costs will be extraordinary.”