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Fall on Rock, Weather, California, Tuolumne Meadows, Daff Dome

FALL ON ROCK, WEATHER

California, Tuolumne Meadows, Daff Dome

On July 29, Hope Wolf (28), an instructor for the Yosemite Mountaineering School, was leading a group of six clients back from a day’s climbing at Daff Dome when they were caught by a mid-afternoon downpour. In similar weather a week earlier, the trail to the road down the dirt gully had become so full of running water that it was unsafe to hike. Furthermore, the group would have done significant damage to the wet soil, so Hope had taken her clients down the alternate route on low-angle granite slabs. Faced with the same conditions, she chose the slabs again.

The rock was slick and two or three of the group had slipped and fallen. Mark Bayless slipped once, but Hope stopped him. A few feet further, just before a two-foot drop-off, Mark slipped again and went down. Hope turned to stop him, but they were so close together that he caught her off balance and carried her off the drop. The slide would ordinarily have been harmless, but her right foot stopped in a twisted position and stayed there as she kept going. The momentum of her own body, her 50-pound pack, and Mark’s 200 pounds on top of that, gave her ankle no chance. When she came to a stop she looked down to see the sole of her right shoe staring up at her and an ankle bone trying to poke through the skin.

Hope called back to the class that she was hurt and told everyone to stop, then she had them descend one at a time. Co-instructor Grant Hiskes verified that the nerve function and circulation in her foot was intact. While someone went for help, Grant tried to splint the leg as he found it, but the deformity got in the way and pressure of the bone under the skin caused too much pain.

The NPS rescue team began arriving about 30 minutes after the accident. With the help of a little morphine, Duane Grego, an NPS paramedic, was able to realign the dislocated bones and splint the ankle. The team carried Hope, in a litter, the remaining 300 feet to the road. She was transported by ambulance to Mammoth Hospital, where three fractures in the ankle were repaired.

Analysis

Both Hope and the rangers at the scene agree that most parties would not use a belay on such a low-angle slab. (There were no anchors available, anyway.) However, an accident like this one would be a major logistical hassle if it were ten miles in the backcountry, and no one wants to put up with several months of physical therapy. This incident is a reminder to stay alert, even on the easy stuff. (Source: John Dill, NPS Ranger, Yosemite National Park)

(Editor’s Note: Again, a hiking situation that turned into the need for climbing technique.)