Earlier this week, search and rescue teams in Yosemite National Park were called into action, when a rock climber on El Capitan became stranded on the mountain after severing his thumb. Following the freak accident, the unnamed climber from Austria was unable to finish his ascent, and had to be removed from the rock face in a difficult helicopter rescue.
The man, and his partner, were climbing “The Nose” route on El Capitan, one of the most iconic and challenging climbs in the world. At one point, the Austrian was the lead climber when he slipped and fell about a thousand feet from the top, narrowly avoiding death thanks to his safety lines and climbing harness.
Unfortunately, during the fall, his thumb became tangled in the rope, and when it pulled tight, it completely removing the digit in the process. The severed thumb tumbled 80 feet to land on a small ledge below, and the injured man’s climbing partner had to descend to retrieve it. After plucking it from the ledge, they called for help, and the SAR team arrived on the scene shortly there after.
The drama wasn’t done there however, as they still had to get both climbers down from the mountain. Rescuers knew that they had a limited window to complete that operation and still get the man to a hospital soon enough to reattach his thumb. Fortunately, Richard Shatto, the pilot of the rescue helicopter, was able to maneuver close enough to the rock wall so that the two climbers could be saved. Immediately following that dramatic rescue, they were whisked off to a nearby hospital, where surgery was successfully performed to repair the hand.
This story is yet another that demonstrates how professional and organized these search and rescue squads really are. Not only were they able to get both men safely off of El Cap, they were able to do it quickly enough to save the thumb as well. Amazing work out of these courageous men.
[Photo credit: Mike Murphy via WikiMedia]