In El Capitan Meadow, a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, from Stockton, California, and Yosemite Search and Rescue crews prepare to fly personnel and gear to the top of El Capitan to initiate a technical rescue of three climbers. (Photo: Kari Cobb/NPS)
Three rock climbers were safely rescued on Dec. 13 from the wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, culminating a two day rescue operation. Sarah Land, 24 from Oakhurst, Calif., Walker Mackey, 25, and Rio Mackey, 23, both from Boulder, Colo. were lowered down the wall of the 7,563 foot granite monolith after spending the night on its wall. Walker and Rio were not injured while Land sustained moderate injuries.
National Park Service Rangers were assisted in the technical rescue effort by an Army National Guard Chinook helicopter from Stockton, Calif., a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter from Auburn, Calif., and a private helicopter from Columbia, Calif.
At 11 a.m. on Dec. 12, Yosemite Emergency Communication Center received a call from Land asking for assistance. While climbing, an approximately 200 pound rock dislodged and struck Land. At first, the group attempted to finish the climb, due to her injuries, Land called back at approximately 2:30 p.m. and asked Yosemite National Park Rangers for assistance. With daylight dwindling, Park 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, Yosemite National Park contacted the Law Enforcement Division of the California Emergency Management Agency seeking assistance in the rescue effort. They contacted the Army National Guard, who 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 National Park Rangers Matt Stark and Chris Bellino were lowered to the injured climber and her friends. Once the Rangers were with the climbers, the group was lowered to the base of El Capitan. A CHP helicopter then short-hauled Land to El Capitan Meadow where she was transported out of Yosemite Valley.
Completing the rescue mission on Monday was critical due to dwindling weather conditions, including fog covering Yosemite Valley and impending snowfall at the higher elevations. More than 30 Yosemite National Park Rangers, Yosemite Search and Rescue Team Members, and others assisted in this complex technical rescue, putting their lives at risk to rescue the climbers. –NPS/LAK