ElCap Report Special Rescue Edition 10/3/2014

ElCap Report Special Rescue Edition 10/3/14

By Tom Evans

Yo.. Well, today was to have been a nice climbing day, with a special event that I will have to cover later.  I was in the Café doing some images and finishing breakfast when Bud Miller, from YOSAR, told me that there was to be rescue off the Nose at Camp 4 ledge.  I quickly packed up my computer and headed to the ElCap Meadow to shoot the proceedings.  No rescue vehicles had arrived yet, so I set up and looked through the camera to see what the problem was.  What I saw was not good…not good at all.  A team that I had been following for a couple of days had had an accident.  Simon, a doctor from Wales, had fallen on the pitch above Camp 4 and was lying, seriously injured, on a ledge. His wife, Marian, was tending to his injuries and on the cell phone to the rescue people.

1)  The scene of the accident, Camp 4 on the Nose route.  Early on I was greatly relieved to see Simon raise his head, so I knew he was still alive.  Most of the rest of the time he just laid there.





























2)  Around 8am the first rescue team members showed up and quickly unloaded equipment.





























3)  Soon the old reliable chopper, Yosemite Fire #551, was in the landing pattern for the ElCap Meadow.



























4)  Tim Lyons was at the controls, for this rescue, and he flew the entire mission without incident.  Just another day in the left seat for Tim.



























5)  Soon the complete team was there and was instructed on how the rescue was to proceed.  It was to be a short haul of Simon right off the ledge on a 200ft long line hanging from the chopper.





























6)  Pilot Tim Lyons and his crew chief, Eric Small, waiting for the rescue to start.  Tim is an excellent pilot and has done many such rescues and his steady nerve and skill made this rescue possible.





























7)  Ranger Jack Hoeflick, already a legend in rescue, was the commander on the scene, and would be the first person to fly up to the accident site.




























8)  Soon Jack was suited up and grabbing the line to the chopper.





























9)  The chopper took off and was quickly on its way to the site.






























10)  Dangling on the end of the line, with the chopper close to the wall above, Jack made the perfect toss to Marian, who pulled him into the ledge.





























11)  Soon Aaron Smith was to follow with the litter and other equipment.





























12)  In moments Aaron was flying along the face, headed to the ledge.





























13)  Aaron arrived and soon he and Jack had Simon stabilized and on the litter for the quick flight down to the valley floor.































14)  In a few minutes they had rigged the litter and equipment and Aaron was ready to leave with Simon.  The chopper came in and the two rangers used an extendable pole to catch the line on the chopper.






























15)  Soon Aaron and Simon were flying by ElCap's Great Roof, and on the way down to the meadow and a flight to the hospital.






























16)  As they approached the ground the medical team was ready for the transfer to the medical chopper that had flown in a few minutes before.





























17)  When they landed, Simon was examined and made ready for the flight to Modesto and the trauma unit at Memorial hospital, and was soon on his way.





























18)  Jack and Marian were to rappel off and later in the afternoon I spotted them nearing the ground.





























I have not heard anything about Simon’s condition since I last saw him but guess he will make a full recovery.  EDIT:  I got an email from Marian on the 2nd of Nov. from their home in England and she reports that Simon is well on his way to a complete recovery!  YEAH!!

So that’s the way it was, and that’s the way it happened.  YOSAR once again pulled off a very difficult rescue with excellent results.  Many, many more people were involved in this event than I have room to credit here.  Be safe my friends.

Signing off,




I'm not a climber but a friend just returned to NZ has just recounted this rescue to me - and passed on your link. Remarkable work by all concerned and your photographs are both sensitive and awesome (in the old sense of the word). I particularly like No 15 with that huge block of shadow echoing the shape of Aaron and Si, as well as the sense of relief inherent in their progress.

Tom, you are just amazing.

Your photos are incredible and very poignant. I really enjoy your site. You da man.

Amazing photos and great job

Amazing photos and great job by the Rangers and Yosar.

Wishing Simon a full and speedy recovery


Karl Baba

To Marian/Simon and Tom/YoSAR

Marian - Thanks for the info and great to know that Simon is responding well. My prayers and with you guys and this shall pass.
Tom/YoSAR - Your methodical planning and quick response goes a long way in saving lives. Thanks for your great work and sharing the rescue story.

Aaron Smith was actually the

Aaron Smith was actually the Ranger who few with the patient. JAck Hoeflich Rapped with the wife/partner. Good report.

Well done YOSAR! Patrick Warren


From Tom... thanks Patrick for the correction!

Capt. Tom

Thanks for the incredible photography, not just now; past, present and future!

Hi all, Thanks for your

Hi all,

Thanks for your messages of good will. Simon is recovering well in hospital. He has a fractured skull but is responding well to treatment. It's very early days but neurosurgeon is pleased with his progress to date.

We'd bivvied at camp 4 and had just started climbing. We hadn't realised that there's some easier grade stuff round the corner, so Simon was trying to go straight up from the ledge when he slipped. I tried to catch him as he rocketed past, but there was enough rope out for him to reach the edge of the ledge where he then flipped upside down and hit his head.

He was wearing a HB Carbon fiber Spectra helmet. I'm interested to know whether a different type of helmet would have protected his skull better. There's barely a dint on the helmet but his fracture is just above his right ear.

A HUGE thank you to Christine and Adrian who were climbing above us and heard my calls for help. I couldn't get to my phone initially as I was too busy trying to turn Simon upright.

Jack, Arron, the helicopter pilot did an amazing rescue backed up by their fantastic team. I'm eternally grateful.

Tom, thanks for helping from the meadow, and for keeping our friends on the ground up to date with what was happening. When he's ready, I'll show Simon your amazing pictures.

I'll pass on all your messages to Simon as I'm sure it'll help speed his recovery.

Stay safe,

Christina and Adrien here.

So glad to hear Simon is recovering well. We gave our info to YOSAR when we got down but no one was there to get your info and we had to head back to New Hampshire right away. Everyone did a great job pulling together quickly and efficiently to get Simon off the rock, you included. We are keeping Simon in our thoughts, please send him our well wishes and keep in touch. (My email is christina.natal@gmail.com) I have a few photos of the chopper from our ledge if you wanted those as well. stay safe.
Christina and Adrien

Best wishes on a full recovery

Hi Marian,

Best wishes to Simon on making a full recovery, and hats off to you and the rescue team for giving him the best possible chances of a positive outcome.

I may be able to help you with this question Marian:

"He was wearing a HB Carbon fiber Spectra helmet. I'm interested to know whether a different type of helmet would have protected his skull better. There's barely a dint on the helmet but his fracture is just above his right ear."

I'd say possibly yes, but any helmet is usually better than none. The majority of helmet impacts in climbing occur on the crown, where this helmet is particularly strong. For these rarer impacts close to the rim, traditional hardshell and cradle helmets offer little protection. Foam helmets are better in this respect, although they do have other limitations. More info here if you're interested: www.thebmc.co.uk/climbing-helmets

Hope Simon is climbing again soon, and thanks Tom for the great photos.

Dan Middleton

Marian, I'm a friend of

I'm a friend of Ellie's and was on the Nose with the week before. All the best and I hope Simon is back on his feet soon.


Amazing photos and amazing rescue team. I recall when John Dill was pioneering a lot of those techniques (though he would be loth to take credit, I'm certain).

In the 80's, it really was quite revolutionary to think that most Yosemite cliff rescues would be by helicopter, but it looks like the techniques are incredibly polished at this stage. Does the "traditional" rescue team get much action on the cliffs these days?

Great work. John Middendorf, former YOSAR member (who got to work on a lot of "traditional" cliff rescues (with ropes and pulleys and stuff), but also whose life was saved by a helicopter rescue).


From Tom.. The traditional guys do the grunt work for injuried hikers, etc and on big rescues they often are flown to the top of the cliff and rig and manage the lowering ropes.  When it is a matter of limb or life YOSAR tries to fly the injured party off if at all possible.  This time they were lucky as the normal west to east wind wasn't blowing yet.  Yeah you are a legend in the history of YOSAR and your great service was and is greatly appreciated.

Incredible coverage, Tommy!

Thanks so much for the photos, Tommy - especially the accident scene photo and the perfect toss photo.

Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery to Simon!

PtP Pete

Thanks for your report and

Thanks for your report and photographs. And thanks of course to the everyone involved in the rescue. We're all anxiously waiting to hear news about Si back here in the UK.

Simon and Marion

News just reached us here in the UK about the fall. Hope Si is OK and I'll be in touch when you are back home to see if there is anything I can do.

All the best

Kendal thinking of you

Hi Marion,

The Kendal Strava cycling group heard about Simon's fall. We are all relieved to hear he is responding well to treatment and we hope to see him back in Kendal very soon.

All his cycling friends are thinking of you both.

Best regards

Rich and the Strava gang.