I spent this weekend in Jackson with Jake (Hogan), and 8 of my friends and my brother (novice climbers at best). We spent Saturday and Sunday doing many moderate routes suitable for the moderate climbers I was showing around.
Late Saturday afternoon, Jake and I were walking through the parking lot at Jackson and I spoke with a lady crossing our path. She told us about a girl who had just slipped over the East Falls between Yos. Slab and the Dog Walk. Jake and I looked at each other as two dudes more than able to help and abandoned dinner to high-tail it to the East Falls. When we got there, there were 20+ people with what seemed like no one in charge and we learned that an EMT who had come to help the first hiker had ALSO slipped over the falls. The scene was catastrophic. Yelling, arguing, no directions, no decisions being made, slightly embarrassing, entirely frustrating. The EMT and girl were put on backboards. Nurses and a second EMT were present to administer first aid (most of which was done at this point). Jake, myself, and a few other guys then moved the EMT from the wet and mossy boulders under the falls.
I do not have details about the girl as from here on out I assisted the transportation of the EMT. From the East Falls, we carried the EMT on a litter to the 3rd/4th class access that is somewhere just before Industry (I believe, past Rainy Day Roof), to a waiting ATV atop the cliffs. The man was internally injured severely (with the addition of minor scrapes and scratches), delirious, and multiple times I needed to speak/yell/question to maintain his consciousness using his name, reassurances and simple questions. He was most definitely in shock, overheating, pale, disoriented, resistant, and complaining of abdominal pains and difficulty breathing. The second forest service EMT on scene followed a ways back with the group carrying the girl. She was bandaged, conscious, responsive and in stable condition (I believe, throughout the duration of her extraction). The haul to the access slope took (at best guess) 30-45 minutes, and the man weighed (at best guess) 220-250lbs. Thanks to all the climbers who dropped their ropes, packs and routes along the trail to relieve some of the other carriers.
From the base of the slope, the carrying group rested and some fresh hands/shoulders were brought in. Jake and I took lead and cranked this guy up the muddy, slippery rocks and out of the canyon. Another 30ft elevation and 50 yards later and we met up with the ATV. The ATV driver and I strapped the litter into the wagon with two webbing ratchets and some of the carrying group stayed with us to rip down logs and branches in the way of the ATV as the driver bushwhacked out to a deep extension of the field that can be found past the Pines campgrounds at the end of the road. Here we waited for a chopper air lift. It was hard for the chopper to find us, people with the radios had trouble describing the location until lat. long. coordinates were given. We heard the life flight chopper in the area and I snatched the blaze orange head bags from under the litter and ran to the middle of this prairie grass field waving the blaze orange over my head until the chopper saw us and circled in to land. The hurt EMT, in the meantime was cooled with ice packs and cold water soaked cloths. His co-worker kept him conscious from this point on.
The girl was carried to the additional mile through the field to the road and delivered to an ambulance team there. Jake and I rode with some of the other help back to camp in the back of the Forrest Service pickup truck. The temps were in the high 80's with wicked humidity and we were drenched head to toe.
From this experience I've learned how crucial it is to have someone experienced in scene management take charge of an emergency situation. If no one is experienced, someone must take charge and concrete decisions must be made. Valuable time was lost arguing at the base of the East Falls, no doubt.
The experience also reinforced what I already knew: routine injuries are catastrophic in the Jackson Falls canyon. There is little experience with these extractions and, in this case, the help of climbers was required to best navigate the trails and canyon access points. The incident also emphasizes the fact that complacency on approaches or descents is the quickest way to climbing or climbing related accidents. My best advice for future (god forbid) incidents is to stay calm and to assign someone to be making the decisions.
- Be careful.
- Don't get complacent, even around moderate heights.
- Learn wilderness first aid.
- Don't get hurt at Jackson.
My best wishes and prayers to the victims. My apologies for any comments (during the incident OR in this report) that may offend anyone. I am trying to be as accurate and truthful as possible about the event so that others can learn from this experience both how to stay safe, how to help in an emergency and options or examples of what may be needed in future emergency situations at Jackson or elsewhere.
Climb safe. Hike safe. Climb hard.
Feel free to ask questions. It's late, I may not be clear on some things or haven't elaborated, though that may be because of the one-dimensional perspective of my accident report.
Submit Your Trip Reports