Hiker Slips and Falls into the Middle Cascades of Yosemite Falls

June 06, 2014 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On May 28, 2014, at approximately 11:45 am, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call from an individual in a party of four backpackers stating that one of the members of the party had fallen into the creek at the base of Upper Yosemite Fall. The reporting party and two other friends were in the boulders near the base of the falls and could see the subject stranded on the boulder in the middle of the river. Two park rangers were dispatched to the scene to evaluate the degree of the emergency and the resources necessary to perform a rescue. The rangers arrived on scene approximately 45 minutes after the 911 call and located the reporting party, who led the rangers to an area where they could see the subject. The subject was lying on a boulder below a series of cascades in class V+ whitewater in an area commonly referred to as the “Inner Gorge.”

The reporting party stated that his friend was scrambling around on wet slabs near the gorge when he slipped and fell in. The subject was extremely fortunate that another member of his party happened to see him fall, as they were slightly separated at the time of the incident. The creek flushed him through over 100 feet of whitewater before he was able to pull himself onto a boulder in the middle of the gorge. Had the subject been unable to self-rescue by getting onto the rock, he would have taken fatal plunge over a waterfall. (See photo below.) The park rangers determined that an emergent extrication was necessary because of the potential for serious injuries and hypothermia.

Park rangers considered two plans: attempt a helicopter short-haul operation or perform a rope extrication. It was determined that any sort of rope rescue would take a significant amount of time due to the extremely wet and technical terrain. A delayed rescue had the potential to exacerbate the victim’s hypothermic condition. Nevertheless, additional search and rescue team members began hiking to the scene with equipment to perform a rope extrication as a contingency plan. Meanwhile, park helicopter 551 performed a reconnaissance fly-over to determine if a short-haul operation would be possible. This area of the falls has high gusting winds that can make flight operations unsafe. Fortunately, the helicopter pilot determined that he could safely perform the short-haul operation. He returned to Ahwahnee Meadow, where he picked up the short-haul attendant. The attendant was flown and inserted into the subject’s location, where he detached from the short-haul line. He quickly put the victim into a harness and the helicopter returned and lifted both out of the gorge and back to Ahwahnee Meadow. The subject was then transferred to an ambulance, where he was treated for hypothermia. He sustained no other injuries and was released. [Watch a video of the rescue.]

When hiking in areas with swiftwater, stay on the trail and away from the water. Rocks along rivers and creeks are extremely slick when dry, and even more so when wet. Many visitors slip on slick rock every year and a few are swept away, often suffering serious injuries or death. Look where the current will take you before approaching the water. Even water that looks calm can have powerful—often deadly— currents.

Cascades below Upper Yosemite Fall with hiker stranded on boulder

47 Comments Comments icon

  1. May 23, 2015 at 01:34

    Nice work by the crew. Impressive, stable hover by the pilot. Scrambling above and within inner gorge is not without risk. This gentleman was fortunate.

  2. May 22, 2015 at 06:57

    can I get a job

  3. Jim
    September 12, 2014 at 07:04

    Wow, when looking at the picture, the river and rocks don't look all that big. Then you watch the video and realize just how precarious a situation this guy found himself in. SAR saved the guy's life, no doubt about it.

  4. August 17, 2014 at 04:58

    The best way to stay safe is to know your limits, the terrain and the inherent dangers. Be prepared! Thanks YOSAR for all you do.

  5. July 16, 2014 at 10:18

    If you are a part of this group of hikers, PLEASE CONTACT ME. I believe I found your camera case at the base of the falls. I am sure you would like it (and it's contents) back. Find me here: cassiakarin.com

  6. Tim
    June 15, 2014 at 10:09

    I think it is unfair that some people want to insult this guy when the details of this incident are not clear. Why are people so certain that he is stupid or did something wrong? I had a fall just a few hundred yards from this very spot so I am not ready to condemn his judgment. It would be very safe if we all just stayed home and sat on the couch. This guy was out doing something exciting and adventurous. It is possible he made a mistake, but it may have been a freak accident. He was not seriously injured, but I was not so lucky – I broke my ankle. I was rescued by YOSAR, but there was no helicopter ride. My situation was not life threatening, and it was the off-season (January 2013), so a carry-out would have been delayed. My other option was for them to provide me with crutches and a splint. With their help and support, I made it down the trail to the valley after about 5 hours of hard work. They were completely nonjudgmental about my mishap. Now that people have had a chance to start forming opinions about me, should I mention that I was on the established trail? I did nothing wrong and could not repeat the fall if I tried. I slipped on a rock that was polished smooth from 140 years of wear on the very old Yosemite Falls trail, and somehow my foot was caught and twisted causing it to roll over and snap my ankle. I would certainly resent it if anyone tried to insult me about my mishap. After two surgeries, I am still on the mend, but looking forward to my next adventure in Yosemite.

  7. June 12, 2014 at 11:34

    How on earth was he able to get up onto that rock? The backside must be very different from the front side.

  8. June 11, 2014 at 11:37

    Better to feel a little stupid than to be dead. Truth is you gotta respect Mother Earth!!!

  9. June 11, 2014 at 01:35

    I was there on the Yosemite Valley visitor center with my granddaughter and her friend, at the time they were rescuing this hiker. Thanks to this (yosar) rescue team. We are so glad that they were able to save him, and that they make these accidents known to the public to make others aware of the imminent danger.

  10. June 10, 2014 at 03:44

    Thank God this hiker came out of this emergency situation alive. Good work to the rescue people.

  11. June 10, 2014 at 12:44

    Another great job by SARS. I do not see how the guy managed to climb up on that rock as he was being swept down the gorge.

  12. June 10, 2014 at 11:18

    Can't fix stupid

  13. June 10, 2014 at 08:54

    Thank you rangers and rescuers!

  14. June 09, 2014 at 11:58

    Many thanks to the rescue team for endangering their lives to save what Darwin didn't. I agree bill him for the rescue and advertise it. Been hiking the park for 30 years and have seen enough stupidty that boggles my mind. Time to make people take responsibility for their actions.

  15. June 09, 2014 at 10:29

    Thanks for all you to Yosemite Rescue Team.. that is so dangerous and you are so admired. Be careful

  16. June 09, 2014 at 06:27

    I have played in this gorge a number of times, but I don't go anywhere near the damp rocks until I am anchored and harnessed in with a rope. It is an INCREDIBLE place to get up and close to -- but terrifying if you're not tied in. If I were that guy I would have no doubt of my pending death over the falls... crazy that he made it out. He'll never forget that lesson.

  17. June 09, 2014 at 05:56

    Bill him! It's the only way to stop stupidity! Stay on the trail , stay away from water falls edge, or be stupid ... & Die

  18. June 09, 2014 at 11:11

    I am a hiker and thankful that this man was able to be saved. One never knows when we might need help. It's always good to know that we have people around to help us. Remember to be kind to one another.

  19. Bob
    June 09, 2014 at 10:19

    I slipped into the Merced River west of Savage's. Thanfully I had a wet suit and vest, but that time under the water was scary. Things can happen quickly.

  20. June 09, 2014 at 07:59

    Thanks to the rescuers for saving him. I am an avid outdoorsman, I like to hike, I stay legal with permits, I'm careful but I'm not going to stop doing them just because it may be dangerous.

  21. June 09, 2014 at 07:01

    I don't care which entity does the rescuing, people who pull stupid stunts like this should be forced to pay the bill. Maybe then, people will start wising up and stop taking such foolish chances.

  22. June 09, 2014 at 12:01

    Since it was a NPS helicopter, its very unlikely that they charged him for the rescue. That's a sensible policy. When people fear charges for SAR they tend to get themselves into still worse trouble, putting SAR people at increased risk. There can be charges for private helicopter medical evacuations, though these are often covered by health insurance. If you get into trouble, don't worry about SAR cost, just get yourself and your friends to safety with help of SAR resources.

  23. June 08, 2014 at 08:45

    I doubt any of the guys participating in that rescue were there in June of 1990, but I was rescued from behind that same rock. As others have said, stay on the trail. Fatalities occur here annually.

  24. June 08, 2014 at 07:34

    Thanks Rescue People for saving him. Many of my friends are hikers, and I always want them to be safe.

  25. June 08, 2014 at 07:10

    Dear Alan, Blessed be that this man is alive. That is more important than money. It is beautiful that humans will do this for each other, especially with all the bad news we have of shootings, bombings, wars, kidnappings, etc. Thank you to the rescuers.

  26. June 07, 2014 at 07:47

    The bill for helicopter rescue is about 150k.... avid hikers get supplemental helicopter insurance because of this.... It's the part you don't hear about in rescue stories

  27. June 07, 2014 at 05:48

    I hope this guy will have to pay for his rescue. Those copters are cheap to run.

  28. June 07, 2014 at 04:40

    I love happy endings. From what I've seen, the water turbulence + rocks can shred a person like a blender prior to any fall. Well if it can do that to a large log then...I just assume......

  29. June 07, 2014 at 04:31

    What a blessed man he was. Thank you to the rescue team. I witnessed someone not paying attention to warnings and go over Nevada falls last year, and lost his life. Everyone please heed the warnings and be safe. Yosemite is such a beautiful place to hike.

  30. June 07, 2014 at 09:24

    So proud of our search and rescue team. People need to know.Be safe.

  31. June 06, 2014 at 11:06

    Thanks for the misleading title.

  32. June 06, 2014 at 10:32

    Awesome job by the rescue team. Please give wilderness its space and stay on the trails.

  33. JJ
    June 06, 2014 at 10:03

    What a rescue! So very thankful for a good ending. Thankful for excellent and well trained SAR teams! Our son is with Fresno County Sheriff's SAR and if he got a 100% pay raise he would still get $0. Totally volunteer for many of them, and they even spend their own gas to get to location. Kudos and thanks to all involved!

  34. June 06, 2014 at 09:41

    Kudos to YOSAR for this rescue. It's clear that rock was slippery and both could have slipped over the next falls easily. That hiker should be very greatful for luck and for YOSAR for the rest of his life. He could not possibly have self-rescued from there.

  35. June 06, 2014 at 08:59

    Great job, team! Nice to see a happy ending!

  36. June 06, 2014 at 08:42

    Amazing guys. Brave deed!

  37. June 06, 2014 at 08:39

    My deep respect for those who take care of others' lives. Rescue team once more you guys performed a great job!

  38. June 06, 2014 at 08:21

    Didn't think I could have any more respect for our search and rescue people, but I was wrong. I hope you all get pay raises. I hope the man who got rescued thanked you over and over again. I'm betting he gets how dumb his actions were and how freaking lucky he is to be alive. But really: thank you. We could not do without you, although we should all try our best. :-)

  39. June 06, 2014 at 08:20

    Didn't think I could have any more respect for our search and rescue people, but I was wrong. I hope you all get pay raises. I hope the man who got rescued thanked you over and over again. I'm betting he gets how dumb his actions were and how freaking lucky he is to be alive. But really: thank you. We could not do without you, although we should all try our best. :-)

  40. June 06, 2014 at 07:30

    So thankful to know you are out there to save us. Thanks YOSAR.

  41. June 06, 2014 at 07:22

    Superb job rescue team!!! People are just darn right ignorant and must not see the news of all the people who have lost their lives.

  42. June 06, 2014 at 05:54

    The importance of staying off or wet rocks next to moving water cannot be over emphasized. - Former wilderness ranger and white water rescue technician in Kings Canyon National Park.

  43. June 06, 2014 at 05:50

    Doesn't anyone use there brain any more? People underestimate the potential danger of fast water, wet rocks and death by plummeting over the edge of a waterfall when they are up stream. This happens every year. You would think people would get the message by now...

  44. June 06, 2014 at 04:50

    People need to learn to respect the wilderness. Mother Nature can kill you. Great job rescue team.

  45. June 06, 2014 at 04:28

    Stay on the trail, people!

  46. Rob
    June 06, 2014 at 04:26

    Stay. On. Trail. Speaking from experience Almost did the same there a couple of years ago. Learned my lesson. Hope someone else learns there's by reading this.

  47. Al
    June 06, 2014 at 04:24

    A millions thanks to the rescue team. This hiker is lucky we have a drought year. The falls would have been roaring wildly this time of the year.

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Last updated: June 6, 2014

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