Rock fall in­jures man as he leaves Yosemite

Waterloo Region Record - - WORLD - Scott Smith The As­so­ci­ated Press

SAN FRAN­CISCO — A man in­jured when a sec­ond mas­sive rock fall plunged in Yosemite was driv­ing out of the park when rock and rub­ble broke through the sun­roof of his SUV and a rock hit him in the head, his wife said.

Tele­vi­sion im­ages show Jim Evans, of Naples, Florida, con­scious and his wife hold­ing a jacket around his bloody head.

Evans was air­lifted to a hospi­tal in Modesto, Cal­i­for­nia, and is ex­pected to sur­vive, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

Evans’ wife, Rachel Evans, told KNEE tele­vi­sion that the cou­ple and two other rel­a­tives had ended a three-day visit to Yosemite and were leav­ing Thurs­day when the rock slide hap­pened.

She says no one else in the car was in­jured.

The mas­sive new hunk of gran­ite broke off Thurs­day at the park’s moun­taineer­ing mecca of El Cap­i­tan, in­jur­ing Evans and send­ing out huge plumes of white dust.

“There was so much smoke and de­bris,” said climber Ryan Sheri­dan, who had just reached the top of El Cap­i­tan when the rock let loose be­low him. “It filled the en­tire val­ley with smoke.”

The slide came a day af­ter a gi­ant slab of gran­ite plunged from the same for­ma­tion, killing a Bri­tish man on a hik­ing and climb­ing visit and in­jur­ing his wife.

“It was in the same lo­ca­tion of the pre­vi­ous rock fall,” Sheri­dan told The As­so­ci­ated Press by cell­phone from the moun­tain. “A larger rock fall let loose, eas­ily three times the size,” Sheri­dan said.

The man killed Wed­nes­day was iden­ti­fied as An­drew Foster, 32, of Wales. The park didn’t iden­tify his wife but said she re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized.

The park in­di­cated that seven rock falls ac­tu­ally oc­curred dur­ing a four-hour pe­riod Wed­nes­day on the south­east face of El Cap­i­tan. How­ever, it was rare for such a col­lapse to kill any­one, long­time climbers said Thurs­day.

Rocks at the world-renowned park’s climb­ing routes break loose and crash down about 80 times a year. The elite climbers who flock to the park us­ing ropes and their fin­ger­tips to defy death as they scale sheer cliff faces know the risk but also know it’s rare to get hit and killed by the rocks.

“It’s a lot like a light­ning strike,” said Alex Hon­nold, who made his­tory June 3 for be­ing the first to climb El Cap­i­tan alone and with­out ropes. “Some­times ge­ol­ogy just hap­pens.”

The last time a climber was killed by a rock fall­ing at Yosemite was in 2013, when a Montana climber fell af­ter a rock dis­lodged and sliced his climb­ing rope. It was pre­ceded by a 1999 rock fall that crushed a climber from Colorado. Park of­fi­cials say rock falls over­all have killed 16 peo­ple since 1857 and in­jured more than 100.

The rock falls came dur­ing the peak of the climb­ing sea­son for El Cap­i­tan, with climbers from around the world try­ing their skill against the sheer cliff faces. At least 30 climbers were on the for­ma­tion when a sec­tion gave way Wed­nes­day.

Foster and his wife were not on the cliff, how­ever. They were hik­ing at the bot­tom of El Cap­i­tan far from trails used by most Yosemite vis­i­tors in prepa­ra­tion for an as­cent when the chunk of gran­ite about 12 sto­ries tall broke free and plunged, Ged­i­man said.

The slab was about 40 me­tres tall and 20 me­tres wide and fell from the pop­u­lar “Wa­ter­fall Route” on the East But­tress of El Cap­i­tan, Ged­i­man said. Yosemite ge­ol­o­gist Greg Stock said the break was prob­a­bly caused by the ex­pan­sion and con­trac­tion of the gran­ite as it heats dur­ing the sum­mer and gets cold and more brit­tle in win­ter.

PETER ZABROK, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Climber Ryan Sheri­dan had just reached the top of El Cap­i­tan, a 2,307-me­tre rock for­ma­tion, when a rock slide let loose be­low him Thurs­day in Yosemite Na­tional Park.

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