Indian Canyon Fall and Rescue
July 27, 2013
On Friday, July 26, at 8:45 a.m., the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received a 911 call from a hiker in the area of Indian Canyon (a narrow side canyon in Yosemite Valley). The caller reported that his friend, a 20 year-old female hiker, had fallen while scrambling off-trail up a steep slope, and had a serious wound on her right forearm. The pair of hikers intended to hike up Indian Canyon on an unofficial social trail, but, without realizing it, turned right (east) into a drainage that was one drainage too early. As they were scrambling up the drainage, the subject came to a boulder about the size of a person; she tested it with one foot and it seemed stable, but when she stepped up onto the rock with her full body weight, her foot slipped forward, and the rock suddenly became loose and slipped out from under her. The subject fell backward, sliding down the steep slope on her back, head-first; she reports that the only thought on her mind was the possibility of the loose boulder rolling over her. Luckily, the boulder rolled off to one side and didn't strike her. At some point while she was sliding downhill, the subject's head hit something, and then eventually her downhill momentum slowed and she came to a stop. The subject remembers feeling relieved that the loose boulder missed her, and was catching her breath when she looked at the underside of her right forearm and noticed a deep and wide gash, extending almost the entire length of her forearm.
When the 911 call was received at the Yosemite ECC, three search and rescue (SAR) team members set out to find the injured subject and her hiking companion. They proceeded up the actual Indian Canyon social trail, since that was the location given to the Yosemite ECC by the reporting party. The SAR team members hiked far past the drainage the injured hiker was in (the Yosemite ECC had attempted to determine the hikers' precise location from their cell phone call, without success). At 10:30 a.m., a visitor who was at the mouth of Indian Canyon happened to hear cries for help and reported the shouts to the closest public building, the Yosemite Medical Clinic. The incident commander for the search sent two more searchers, one of whom is a visiting physician at the clinic, up the canyon. These two searchers found the injured subject and her friend, and shortly after, the first search team, hiking back down the canyon, also arrived on scene. The whole group hiked straight down to the back door of the clinic for much-needed medical attention. In the end, the subject's forearm wound required 27 stitches (see photo below); additionally, the injured subject received 5 staples on the crown of her head, 1 stitch on a separate forearm wound, and Dermabond to close a laceration on her forehead.
The hiker who called 911 reported that he stayed with his injured friend for about 40 minutes after making the call, but when he didn't hear any shouts or whistles from searchers, he became concerned that maybe he and his friend were, in fact, off route and that the searchers would not find them. The hiker didn't want to leave his friend, but decided he needed to scramble up higher where his shouts would travel farther, a decision which proved key for locating the pair of hikers.
Victim's arm after receiving 27 stitches. View the full-size unblurred photo.
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Did You Know?
In Wawona and downstream, the South Fork Merced River provides habitat for a rare plant, the Sierra sweet bay (Myrica hartwegii). This special status shrub is found in only five Sierra Nevada counties. In Yosemite, it occurs exclusively on sand bars and river banks along the South Fork Merced River downstream from Wawona and on Big Creek.