American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock, Protection Pulled Out, California, Yosemite Valley

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987


California, Yosemite Valley

Mike Brochu (31) and his partner, Mike Ewing, bivied at the base of the West Face of El Capitan the night of May 10, 1986. About 0110 on May 11, Brochu was leading the second pitch of the West Face route. He was aiding, when he shifted his weight to a fixed bashie, then tried to top-step on it. The bashie pulled out. Brochu fell and two more pieces of protection (#1 Friend and #8 stopper) below the bashie pulled out. About two meters below the bashie, Brochu struck a small ledge with his ankle, then fell further down a smooth face. The total distance of the fall was approximately ten meters. He was caught by a piton he had laced.

Ewing lowered Brochu down to the level of his belay stance, pulled him over to the stance with the haul rope, then lowered him to the ground with the haul rope. Because a fracture was suspected, the decision to request a helicopter was made.

When asked to perform the rescue, the park’s contract helicopter pilot was reluctant to perform an operation in the gully area, due to increasing gusty winds. The pilot decided to fly a recon flight to test the area, prior to making a final decision. As the pilot was reconning the area, a ground team of 14 climbing rescuers was preparing for an overnight ground evacuation.

At 1730, the pilot and Rescue Technician John Dill decided that a short-haul operation would be feasible. Brochu was then connected to a suspended rope from a hovering helicopter, and flown to the nearby El Capitan Meadow to waiting rangers. A medical diagnosis showed that Brochu did in fact have a fractured left tibia. (Source: Michael Murray, SAR Officer, Yosemite National Park)

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