Each year, park rangers and search and rescue (SAR) personnel respond to approximately 250 emergency incidents in Yosemite National Park. The park's Preventive Search and Rescue (PSAR) program posts selected SAR incident reports on this blog in the hopes that readers can learn from the experiences of others.
Before reading through the blog, please be familiar with the park's comment policy.
On Friday, April 28, 2017, around 1 pm, the Big Trees Lodge manager contacted Yosemite National Park regarding two of her employees who were late for their morning shift, and who hadn't been seen by co-workers in about 24 hours. Initial investigation revealed they were planning on climbing Wawona Dome. A search was initiated but the employees returned on their own later that evening after having spent an unplanned and very cold night on the Dome.
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.
March 29, 2017Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
At 8 am on December 28, 2016, two trail runners—James and Christine (not their real names)—started up the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles. They didn’t have a particular goal, route, or schedule in mind, but they did have small packs with headlamps and light jackets. Both were experienced with mountaineering, ice climbing, and backcountry snow sports.
June 12, 2016Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
The current Sierra snowpack melt is a welcome occurrence for Californians and its visitors and Yosemite National Park is now reaping the water runoff benefits. The Merced River is active with visitors floating through the Valley. Unfortunately, increased activity, along with lack of planning, preparedness, and inadequate equipment has led to three search and rescue cases involving four persons just in the past week.
June 12, 2016Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Monday, June 6, 2016, Yosemite Search and Rescue received a report about a hiking group possibly stranded without water or having trouble with a water crossing. Due to poor cell phone coverage, communication was haphazard and an ill-prepared hiking group was in for an unplanned stay in the High Sierra.
February 14, 2016Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
The Nose is considered to be the easiest full-length route on El Capitan, which makes it extremely popular and draws relatively inexperienced big-wall climbers. But the Nose also is a complex climb, requiring a large repertoire of techniques that may be unfamiliar to newcomers.
November 17, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Monday, November 2, 2015, winter arrived in Yosemite. By early afternoon, rangers began enforcing tire chain requirements, and the snow plow drivers began their first operation of the winter. White stuff dusted the Badger Pass chairlifts and rain soaked Yosemite Valley. Visitors and park staff alike bundled in jackets, drove more slowly, and marveled that water was finally falling from the sky. It’s worth noting, however, that not all park visitors found Yosemite’s first 2015 winter storm to be so beautiful.
October 08, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Monday, September 19, 2015, at approximately 5:30 pm, Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) received a report that a climber had taken a 50-foot fall. The climber was on a climbing route called Lurking Fear, which is located on the western edge of El Capitan, and was reportedly was suffering serious injuries, including possible head trauma and a broken clavicle.
September 11, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
If you find yourself in a helicopter over the Yosemite landscape, something has gone terribly wrong. On Saturday, June 13 two hikers ran down Half Dome’s subdome to the permit check point. They reported that a female hiker halfway up the subdome was having a severe allergic reaction, including facial swelling, vision loss, and, most concerning, difficulty breathing.
September 11, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Three hikers were injured along the Merced River in the first six days of September. In each of these incidents, individuals made what seemed like reasonable choices to engage in activities along a seemingly benign section of a river but the injuries that resulted were painful ways to end a vacation, and sadly, one which was life altering.
September 10, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
When you hear about search and rescue or emergency medical services at Yosemite National Park, what environment comes to mind? What are the potential scenarios, especially when talking about traumatic injuries? The following case occurred on the morning of July 16. Although there is nothing unusual about it, you might be surprised if this incident falls completely outside of your initial guesses.
August 01, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On June 29, 2015, sometime around 4 pm, a 49-year-old day hiker at the top of Nevada Fall experienced what many people would consider their worst nightmare: being bitten, and envenomated, by a rattlesnake.
July 15, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the afternoon of June 7, Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call reporting that there was a woman in the inner gorge of Yosemite Falls with a broken leg. At some point, she separated from her friends and took a 10- to 20-foot slide down wet granite, resulting in an upper leg injury that prevented her from moving.
July 02, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Monday, June 29, a 27-year-old male got himself into quite a cliff-hanger, literally. In Yosemite Search and Rescue language, we simply call this becoming “ledged-out.” While this might seem unrealistic on a simple hike, it is a very real possibility at Yosemite National Park.
April 02, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
With the unseasonably warm, sunny weather this spring, the number of hikers has risen dramatically over the past several weekends. Trails out of the Valley are open for a long way, with little snowpack, leading some adventurers to travel farther than they might normally at this time of year. We have had an unusually high number of search and rescue missions, all stemming from one common cause: leaving the trail. Here are the stories from this March in Yosemite.
March 10, 2015Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the weekend of February 14, 2015, a 23-year-old male backpacker was hiking along the rim of Yosemite Valley near Dewey Point. Upon reaching the point, overwhelmed with the spectacular view, he decided to attempt to access another spire just a little farther out. This effort required some scrambling, and he ultimately fell down the slope, sustaining a broken arm and several more minor injuries.
October 29, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the evening of Saturday, September 20, 2014, Yosemite National Park’s Tuolumne Meadows Subdistrict received reports of two separate search and rescue incidents: the first was an overdue hiker, last seen at Budd Lake by his hiking group. The second was a climbing party signaling for help from Tenaya Peak. A lightning storm increased the urgency of both incidents.
September 18, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Thursday, September 11, at approximately 10:30 am, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received an international call from a woman stating that her husband’s climbing partner had sent her a text from El Capitan requesting a rescue. A 39-year-old male climber fell while climbing pitch 25 of 31 (the Glowering Spot) on the Nose route, which is a 2,900-foot climb (Grade VI, 5.14a or 5.9 C2).
September 05, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
At approximately 1 pm on Wednesday, August 13, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received a report of an unconscious male in the natural pool at the base of Vernal Fall. Three rangers responded to the scene, arriving within 30 minutes of the initial report. A National Park Service trail crew supervisor directed the rangers to the subject, a 24-year-old male, who, by the time the rangers arrived, was out of the pool, sitting among the boulders at the base of Vernal Fall. The subject was conscious and alert and drinking a bottle of water. He was surrounded by three other hikers; it is unclear exactly how long the subject was underwater.
August 25, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Key components for making any given hiking adventure safe and successful are (1) having an adequate fitness level for the chosen hike and (2) knowing the limits of your own physical abilities. On Wednesday, August 20, 2014 there were two rescues along the Half Dome corridor that highlight these points.
August 11, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Last week in Yosemite Valley, on four consecutive days, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received 911 calls for visitors who had fallen and were injured while venturing off trail near the Lower Yosemite Fall Footbridge.
August 04, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Sunday, July 27, the wife of a 37 year-old male hiker called the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center, reporting that her husband was having difficulty breathing. The couple had arrived in Tuolumne Meadows (elevation 8,800 feet) on Wednesday, July 23. On Saturday, July 26, in spite of feeling slightly ill, the subject, along with his wife, set out on a one-night wilderness trip.
July 25, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Wednesday, July 16, at approximately 6 pm, three 17 year-old males arrived at the Yosemite Medical Clinic seeking medical attention for injuries to their legs, ankles, and feet. The subjects all sustained their injuries while sliding down the Silver Apron, a large, sloping granite area that the Merced River flows over, located in between Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall, just east of Yosemite Valley, and which is a closed area. Moments later, two more 17-year-old males, unrelated to the previous group, walked into the clinic and, similarly, requested medical attention for lower extremity traumatic injuries caused by sliding down the Silver Apron.
July 17, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the Fourth of July, the parents of a six-year-old girl brought their daughter to the Yosemite Medical Clinic after she nearly drowned in the Merced River. The parents recounted the following story to clinic staff:
July 15, 2014Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
At approximately 3 pm on Tuesday, July 8, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call from a party of three hiking on the Panorama Trail. One member of the party was calling to report that his mother (77 years old) and her friend (64 years old) were feeling exhausted and hot, and didn’t think they could complete the hike.
June 06, 2014Posted 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.
September 16, 2013Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
While climbing the Nose of El Capitan, a climber falls about 65 feet when his protection pulls from the cliff. Rangers are flown to the top and lowered 1000 feet down to the climbing party; the party is lowered another 2000 feet to Yosemite Valley for medical treatment.
September 08, 2013Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
A hiker suffers from heat stroke while descending the Upper Yosemite Fall trail on a hot summer day. Shaking uncontrollably, with hot, dry skin and a body temperature exceeding 104°F, the hiker is evacuated by a wheeled litter and then by helicopter.
August 20, 2013Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Near dusk on August 13, 2013, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a report of two climbers requesting assistance near the top of North Dome Gully. Park rangers made phone contact with the party, who denied injury but was nearly out of water after ascending the Royal Arches climbing route that day.
August 18, 2013Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
A father and son leave the established Bridalveil Fall trail to get nearer the waterfall by scrambling through a boulder field. On their return, the father slips on the smooth rocks and suffers multiple injuries: "on a scale of one to ten, [my pain] was at a 38."
September 21, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Monday, August 27, 2012, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call from two climbers (one male and one female) who had had fallen on what they had believed to be the first pitch of Snake Dike, a climbing route on the Southwest Face of Half Dome. In fact, the climbers were approximately one quarter of a mile east of the Snake Dike route.
September 16, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Two hikers slipped and then fell vertically onto large uneven rocks near Chilnualna Falls. 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.
August 12, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Saturday, August 4, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a request for assistance from two rappellers who had gotten off route and subsequently stuck while attempting to rappel the Nose climbing route on El Capitan (about 2,900 feet vertically, with about 23 rappels). This incident is a good example of the dangerous cascade of events that can occur when a team is ill-prepared for what is a very serious undertaking.
August 09, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On Friday, August 3, 2012, at approximately 9 am, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call from bystanders at Glacier Point who witnessed a hang gliding accident approximately 400 feet below the Glacier Point lookout. It is important to remember that in any activity, maintaining awareness, avoiding complacency, and double-checking systems are as important for experts as they are for novices.
July 29, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On July 18, a 22 year-old male backpacker who appeared to be experiencing acute mountain sickness was flown out by helicopter from just below Isberg Pass. Many hiking illnesses that Yosemite Search and Rescue responds to each year could be prevented (or the severity of those medical conditions greatly diminished). Learn how to stay healthy at high elevations.
July 20, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the afternoon of Thursday, July 12, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a report that a male hiker in his upper 40s/early 50s had fallen on the Yosemite Falls Trail, just below Columbia Rock, and could not continue hiking
July 13, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Although the way down after a technical climb may involve relatively easy scrambling or hiking, a hiking trail can be as treacherous as the climbing route itself, should the climber’s attention stray. Whether a climber or a hiker, be sure to focus on what you’re doing on the way up, as well as on the way down (especially if you’re off trail).
June 18, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the afternoon of June 18, 2012, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received a report that a 65-year-old female had fractured her ankle on the Panorama Trail, approximately one mile down from the Glacier Point trailhead.
June 02, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
On the evening of June 2, 2012, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center received report that a 25-year-old male had been bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake in the Little Yosemite Valley campground.
July 12, 2012Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
The following incident demonstrates the capacities and shortcomings of cell phone use in Yosemite. Keep in mind that cell phones that work fine at home, may not work in the park. If yours works and you need emergency help, it is imperative that you call 911 instead of texting.