Hikers Seriously Injured After Slipping and Falling Near Chilnualna Falls

September 16, 2012 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue

On Monday, September 3, 2012, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received a 911 report of two seriously injured hikers (one male and one female) just above Chilnualna Fall, a waterfall approximately four and a half miles from the nearest road, in the park's Wawona District. Reportedly, the two individuals were scrambling off-trail when they slipped, slid approximately 30-35 feet down a smooth granite slab, and then fell vertically 15-20 feet onto large uneven rocks. The female landed between two boulders and her companion landed on top of her. The reporting party stated that the female was unconscious and the male was complaining of severe lower back and pelvic pain.

Scrambling off-trail is one of the leading causes of serious injury and death in Yosemite. When deciding to venture off-trail, hikers must evaluate the terrain they are entering, as well as their own skills and equipment. It is especially important to be aware of the natural hazards in any waterway. At this time of year, water levels in Yosemite's rivers and creeks have dropped significantly (or, many cases, there is no water at all), giving the appearance that the waterways pose less danger than earlier in the season. However, streamside granite slabs and rocks, polished smooth during high-water periods, are slippery whether wet or dry. With one slip of a foot, and regardless of the strength of the water current, scramblers can take serious, life-threatening falls.

Because of the remote location of the subjects and the apparent severity of their injuries, the incident command team ordered an immediate response by the park's helicopter rescue team (HRT). The park helicopter picked up members of the HRT in Yosemite Valley and flew to Wawona. The helicopter crew located the injured subjects from the air and the helicopter was able to land nearby. After working their way down to the scene by ground, the four HRT members confirmed that both patients were in need of immediate evacuation. The patients were packaged in litters and then individually short-hauled* directly from the accident scene to Wawona Meadow, where they were transferred to two separate medical evacuation helicopters and flown to hospitals in the Central Valley. As of September 15, both patients remain in critical condition.

*In short-haul, the litter is attached to a rope suspended from the hovering helicopter. The helicopter picks up the litter, flies to its destination, and sets the litter down gently into the hands of a receiving medical team. Short-haul eliminates the need for a hazardous and time-consuming ground evacuation, and it allows a complicated rescue to be accomplished quickly by a small team.  
 Chilnualna Falls and rock slope
The subjects began their slide halfway down the visible water flow, and then fell off the vertical ledge to the rocks below. NPS photo by ranger Shawn Strobel.

20 Comments Comments icon

  1. February 13, 2013 at 04:44

    @Mary Lou: She is no longer under our care, but we understand that she is still recovering.

  2. February 13, 2013 at 09:41

    Any word on the female and how she is doing?

  3. October 19, 2012 at 07:18

    I work at the facility that the female Is in....she is doing very well an progressing every day.....so everyone plz continue to prey for her and her family

  4. October 08, 2012 at 08:55

    Any update on the hikers?

  5. October 05, 2012 at 11:31

    I spoke to the girl's mom and I will be providing the information for both hiker's account information in the next day so that donations for their medical bills can be accepted. Thank you and bless you all!

  6. October 03, 2012 at 04:04

    Our family was hiking in Yosemite on Labor Day when this happened which is so sad. The families will need lots of support. Medical expenses will mount quickly for both hikers so helping by making contributions is a great idea. Please do share information for both.

  7. October 02, 2012 at 04:49

    Is there a way we can donate to the injured hikers medical bills?

  8. October 01, 2012 at 03:04

    @Amy! That great to know that he is out of the hospital. I hope he is doing well! I know she is out of CCU and moving to a sub acute unit. I only know her, not him.

  9. Amy
    September 26, 2012 at 11:24

    I know them both and no, the male is not dead. He is actually out of the hospital now. Just keep her in your prayers as she really needs them.

  10. September 25, 2012 at 12:48

    The female hiker is breathing on her own, however, she could be in a coma for 8 months. Not sure about the male though.

  11. September 24, 2012 at 09:24

    Any update on the male and female hikers?

  12. September 21, 2012 at 12:24

    @ Marilyn! Really? These families are suffering and the two hikers will never be the same (mentally and physically). Have a little more compassion!

  13. September 21, 2012 at 12:19

    The female has gone from a 3 to a 6 on the Glascow Coma scale but seems to be progressing. Unfortunately, she will never be the same. I was told that he did not make it, however, I am not sure that is correct.

  14. September 20, 2012 at 07:13

    Lisa, we don't currently have a patient update.

  15. September 20, 2012 at 11:33

    Does anyone have an update on the male and female?

  16. September 19, 2012 at 11:45

    when will they ever learn

  17. September 18, 2012 at 04:20

    I know the mom of the girl who fell, I used to work with her. My prayers are with both of the injured hikers and their families.

  18. September 18, 2012 at 04:04

    I know the mom of the injured female patient

  19. September 18, 2012 at 10:55

    Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the opportunity to learn about dangerous choices in Yosemite and their consequences, and having the opportunity to share them with my family. I wish the hikers well and hope they recover. Thank you for helping them.

  20. September 17, 2012 at 10:25

    I know someone who works with one of the injured parties. My thoughts and prayers go out to both of the injured, and their families.

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Last updated: September 21, 2012

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