Indian Canyon Fall and Rescue

July 27, 2013 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
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
Victim's arm after receiving 27 stitches. View the full-size unblurred photo.

17 Comments Comments icon

  1. March 01, 2015 at 09:57

    While it is an ancient trail, the injury DID NOT happen on the old Indian Canyon Trail. The injury took place along Lehamite Falls which is a mix of Class 4 and 5 climbing. They were seriously off route. PS...if you are going to follow the words of Muir might I suggests you forgo the TP and use pine needles instead. for erosion...truth be told a trail like the old Ledge Trail is far more natural (and thus more dangerous) than the highly erosive Four Mile Trail.

  2. August 11, 2013 at 08:12

    Terrible "trail". Just about the only "views" you get are of the brush while crawling through it on all fours. Plus, it's very sketchy. Would not recommend.

  3. July 30, 2013 at 04:43

    Blue, the rules of protecting the wilderness are not to be ignored. "Leave only footprints" even has it's own limits. But erosional damage, like switchback cutting, and other irresponsible acts are to be avoided. We all have to lower the impact of our presence, and the ideal is to pass through, and leave no trace at all. That is the goal

  4. July 30, 2013 at 11:46

    But haven't we been taught to only use maintained trails? to respect the wilderness. that to "scramble" or jump switchbacks causes erosion? I love to explore, but I respect my park more and don't use non routes. It's the same as people who take rocks or plants because "oh, what will just one hurt?" everyone needs to make the same committment to "take only pictures. leave only footprints"

  5. July 30, 2013 at 09:40

    Way to go Rangers! You are vastly underpaid!

  6. July 30, 2013 at 09:31

    upon reflection, I have to say that it was John Muir that suggested I hike up Indian Canyon, his comment was that it was the "best way to get to the high country". Although we have the fine trails, that are all very safe, I have to note that we cannot simply say that the early adventures of people such as Muir are to be read and never attempt to duplicate. Yes, there is danger, yes, experience is crucial. But the valley is as it was a hundred or a thousand years ago and a person should be able to experience that, if you can.

  7. July 29, 2013 at 10:28

    I hiked up Indian Canyon in 1962, I don't remember there being any real trail, or even an easy way up.I also did the Ledge trail at that time, and it clearly waqs a trail, even used for Ranger guided hikes in the '50s, I believe. My memory of Indian Canyon isn't too good after fifty years, but I do remember that I was not tempted to repeat the trail. Yes, those trails are dangerous, but yes, I do beleive that it does give a person a different feeling for the valley

  8. July 29, 2013 at 09:46
  may want to read the book "Death in Yosemite" before hiking anymore unofficial trails, especially the Ledge Trail.

  9. July 29, 2013 at 08:46

    This was actually the very 1st trail in Yosemite Valley used by the Indians, to call it a "social" trail or "use trail" just displays our complete lack of history in this day and age. I hike many "unoffical" trails in the valley such as the ledge and they are the best in the valley, dangerous but by far the best the valley has to offer. The trick is to just keep the info secret and posting this, I fear will just inspire less experienced people to explore, bad idea..

  10. July 29, 2013 at 08:43

    it is: Not to be more injured, sorry

  11. July 29, 2013 at 08:41

    You have been very lucky not to more injured. You have some wound, but after the healing, your scarf will get slowly better. And for everybody else have a good mobile fully loaded.

  12. July 29, 2013 at 07:13

    I have been a backpacker for many years, and one thing I learned is that you always expect the unexpected. Always better to overpack than underpack. Also, the best advice: know your limits! Happy to hear they were rescued, great job rangers!

  13. July 29, 2013 at 07:07

    Thanks, really appreciate these types of posting. Good reminders to plan for the unexpected.

  14. July 29, 2013 at 06:42

    Be careful, and carry a whistle

  15. July 29, 2013 at 06:39

    Gotta have a whistle at all times. Must have on a trail let alone off!

  16. July 28, 2013 at 12:31

    @Bret, a social trail is an informal trail that's developed over time by repeated use, but which is not a maintained or mapped trail.

  17. July 28, 2013 at 12:00

    Just curious. What is a "social trail." Not familiar with that term. Glad to hear the injury wasn't worse.

Leave this field empty
Required information

Post A Comment

Last updated: July 27, 2013

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 577
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389


(209) 372-0200

Contact Us