Getting Damaged on a Routine Hike

May 01, 2017 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the afternoon of April 29, a 39-year-old hiker above Columbia Rock on the Yosemite Falls Trail left the trail and attempted a short rock scramble. When sliding down the rock, he broke his ankle and found himself stranded and struggling to maintain consciousness due to his severe pain. Other hikers came to his aid and contacted the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center, which dispatched a Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) litter team.
YOSAR team members arrived and provided care to the hiker before starting a long and difficult carryout down the Yosemite Falls Trail. The hiker was transferred to a Yosemite ambulance for ground transport to a Fresno hospital.

What is unusual about this rescue? Actually, very little. In the past few weeks, YOSAR has been inundated with calls from hikers with extremity injuries on Valley-area trails including the Mist, Yosemite Falls, and the John Muir Trails. Our call volume is more like peak summer than mid-spring.

Lessons Learned:

  • Hiking lying in litter with rescuers providing careTrails out of the Yosemite Valley are characteristically steep and uneven. Polished granite surfaces coated with a layer of fine, sandy soil makes for challenging footing. Sturdy hiking boots that provide good grip and ankle protection are essential.
  • Yosemite’s trails lead to some highly desirable destinations, but some favorite areas are more than several miles from the trailhead, one way. Your goal may require considerable physical effort to achieve. Most of our injuries occur on the way down, when physical (and mental) exhaustion conspires with gravity to generate a fall.
  • Hike within your physical limits; rest as needed and allow yourself lots of time to complete your hike.
  • Stay well hydrated throughout your hike by carrying more than enough water, so that you never need to ration. You should be more than halfway through with your hike before your water is halfway gone. Dehydration will make you feel miserable and diminish your physical and mental capacity.
  • Frequently eat salty, easy-to-digest snacks to replenish salts lost through sweating.
  • Yosemite looks like a giant adult playground, but resist the temptation to leave the trail for a spontaneous round of rock scrambling or other exploring. Granite rocks are slippery, even when dry, and injuries and fatalities while scrambling are common.
  • Always ask yourself: “what are the potential consequences if I slip and fall right here?” An unprotected fall, even just a few feet, can break bones, leaving you unable to reach the trailhead and emergency room without professional rescue. Longer falls can cause life altering or life ending injuries.
Spring is a beautiful time to enjoy Yosemite but just a little preparation will help to ensure that your visit stays enjoyable.

yosemite, searchand rescue

Last updated: May 1, 2017

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