Injured climber rescued from Yosemite's Half Dome

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Injured climber rescued from Yosemite's Half Dome

Post by copeg » Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:46 am

Injured climber rescued from Yosemite's Half Dome

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — An experienced South Korean mountain climber was caught in an avalanche on Yosemite National Park's iconic Half Dome and was stranded overnight with a broken leg on the granite monolith before he was rescued Tuesday.

Jun Ho Wang, 38, was swept more than 100 yards down a rocky approach to the granite face and into an icy low-lying gully Monday afternoon. A fellow climber stayed with him overnight and on Tuesday morning — about 16 hours later — he was plucked from the northwest face of Half Dome by a helicopter crew and flown to safety.

"Most people in an avalanche don't survive," said Eric Gabriel, an incident commander for the search and rescue team. "This gentleman not only survived a 100-meter slide, but survived through the night in freezing temperatures."

Wang was flown to Doctor's Medical Center in Modesto to be treated for a fracture in his left wrist and multiple breaks in his left leg, and was in a stable condition by Tuesday afternoon, according to hospital staff.

"It could have been a lot worse, but he was well prepared," said Sean Pence, a manager at Yosemite Medical Clinic, where Wang was evaluated before being flown out of the park. "He had great equipment and his equipment probably saved his life."

Wang was the only member of his seven-person climbing party caught when the avalanche hit around 4 p.m. Monday, said David Pope, a ranger who was on the search and rescue team that found him early Tuesday morning. He said that at the time, Wang was about 2,000 feet above the valley floor preparing lines to ascend the 8,842-foot granite dome.

He rode the falling snow down the steep incline like a wave, landing in an area climbers call the Death Flaps, Pope said.

Two friends in the climbing party who had been below Wang tended to him. They cut Wang a flat ledge the size of a twin bed out of the ice topping the rock, where he rested while wrapped in three sleeping bags, Pope said.

One of the climbers stayed with Wang while the other climbed down and radioed for help. The four climbers in the party who were above Wang when the avalanche hit continued on their climb, Pope said.

The rescue team originally set out Monday night to find the injured man, but the rangers were forced to turn back after hearing more avalanches booming overhead, Pope said.

They set out again at daybreak, and found the injured hiker and a friend hunkered down in the snow.

"Despite the language barrier, they were very appreciative," Pope said. "They just kept saying 'thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.'"

Freeman says the climbers' high-quality gear helped the mountaineers survive the night, even as temperatures dipped below freezing early Tuesday morning.
Associated Press writer Garance Burke in Fresno contributed to this report.

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