ElCap Report 10/11/17 Special Edition Quinn Brett Rescued off Texas Flake

ElCap Report 10/11/17 Special Rescue Edition Texas Flake

By Tom Evans

Yo.. The day started as many do these days..the valley was full of smoke and I was not able to get any useful shots until late morning when the smoke drifted off to the east.  Just past noon a friend came out and we chatted while I was doing my usual morning shooting.  At about 12:30 a man quickly approached and asked if we had seen the big fall off the Boot Flake.  I hadn’t seen it happen as I was conversing with friends at that moment.  He described the fall to me.  The climber had fallen from near the top of the Boot and the story continues below…

Today’s ElCap Report..written just for you..unique in all the world.

1)  A few minutes before the fall I spotted this NIAD team on Texas Flake… I later learned that the top person was Quinn Brett and the lower climber was Josie McKee.






























2)  After I got word of the fall I took a quick shot of the Boot and Texas Flake and saw that Quinn had apparently climbed the Boot with no protection, having only clipped the top bolt of the bolt ladder. Or perhaps the protection had pulled out. Thus the fall was much larger than an aid climber would have taken in a similar situation.  The moment I saw the situation I figured the fall was un-survivable.  We climbers had discussed such a circumstance in the past and we all figured it would be very bad…but no one had ever taken that plunge so it was all speculation.  Word quickly came down from Josie that Quinn had somehow survived the fall but was in dire condition.






























3)  Yosemite Search and Rescue, YOSAR, quickly responded to a call from the witness.  The team came in and swung into action unpacking and sorting the necessary equipment, and discussing the plan of action to bring Quinn down.


























4)  After a time the whop-whop of the blades of helicopter 551 was heard and soon the craft was inbound to the meadow.  551 was piloted by Keith Nelsen who flew with precission and confidence in stressful conditions.





























5)  The plan for the rescue was made and it was decided that they would attempt to fly two climbing rangers to the site of the accident.  Also a ground team would be flown to the top of ElCap to set up a lowering rescue, if the chopper was grounded by high winds.  Brandon Lathum, the head climbing ranger, got the call to be one of the rangers to be flown up on the 200ft long line.  Here he is packing his kit.





























6)  The other ranger, Aaron Smith, also got the call and was quickly in position to be flown, on the end of the line, to the site of the accident.





























7)  Soon Aaron was sailing through the air and in a few moments would be on the side of ElCap.





























8)  Here Aaron is lowering to ElCap Tower, a large ledge at the base of Texas Flake, behind which Quinn was being treated by Josie.  We were very fortunate to have Josie there as she was on YOSAR in the past and knew what to do for Quinn and would set up the necessary ropes and such to speed up the rescue.  She kept her wits about her and was instumental in saving her friend's life... heroic.  This photo, taken from the ground, doesn't do justice to the actual location of the ledge... the next shot gives a much better idea of just how small and exposed it really is.






























8A) This is a shot my friend, Magda, gave me that was taken from the wall when Aaron was lowering to the ledge.  The two climbers who happened to be there were a great help to getting the rangers on the ledge and secured to the mountain.  Nice work men!  It doesn't look like much from the front view in #8 but this shot shows just how imposing such operations are.






























9)  A short time later Brandon arrived with the litter and other gear to treat Quinn and stabilizer her for the quick ride to the meadow.































10)  During all this, the pilot’s skill enabled the whole rescue to continue safely.  No small task that.. any mistake would mean disaster for many of the people directly involved.  Hats off to Keith Nelsen and his crew!





























11)  Soon Aaron had the litter on the left side of Texas Flake and Brandon was able to climb a rope, set by Josie, to get inside the flake to treat Quinn.






























12)  After a time Aaron, Brandon, and Josie had Quinn ready for the flight to the meadow.



























13)  The spotter "Boots" Davenport, had the job of telling the pilot what he was seeing from the side of the aircraft and maybe about the rotor blades proximity to the side of the rock.  Also spotting was Eric Small.






























14)  The chopper returned and the rangers were able to secure the litter to the rope on the chopper.






























15)  After a short time Brandon and Quinn were airborne off the flake, leaving Josie and Aaron to rappel down the cliff.  Non-injured climbers don’t get a ride down because of the risk of an accident on non-essential operations.





























16)  Here Brandon and Quinn are flying past the Boot Flake from which Quinn had recently fallen.






























17)  While the rescue operations were in the latter stages, the medavac chopper flew in.




























18)  Brandon and Quinn soon arrived over the ElCap meadow and were slowly lowered to waiting medical personnel.





























19)  On the ground, YOSAR and flight personnel took control of the situation, treating any last-minute problems and taking Quinn to the medavac.





























20)  Quinn was quickly loaded into the chopper which is equipped to handle any emergency in flight.



























21)  As the chopper flew off I paused and reflected on what had just taken place.  YOSAR once again snatched a person from the jaws of death and gave her a chance to live.  I had initially given her up for dead and now she was back with us, alive, but seriously injured.  Many people made this entire rescue possible and can take pride in their role, no matter their position on the team.  John Dill deserves mention here as he is the innovator of many of the techniques used in helicopter rescues, now throughout the world.  I stand in awe of these brave men and women who gladly risk their own lives to save another’s.



























So that’s the way it went down today, the 11th day of October, 2017.  Quinn is in the hospital with serious injuries but family and friends are there to offer support, encouragement and love.  Best wishes to Quinn for a speedy and complete recovery.


Capt. Tom