Climber killed at El Capitan; second apparent Yosemite death of weekend

El Capitan stands about 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A 28-year-old London man died while climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park after he was struck by a falling rock, officials said.

Felix Joseph Kiernan and his climbing partner were about 600 feet up the east buttress of the popular climbing route Sunday afternoon when a 1-foot-by-2-foot rock became dislodged, park officials said. The rock fell about 150 feet before it struck Kiernan about 2 p.m.

Another climbing party below the pair used a cellphone to call for help, officials said. A search-and-rescue team reached Kiernan about 4 p.m., when rangers pronounced him dead.


Helicopters helped bring Kiernan’s body down to Yosemite Valley, and rangers accompanied his partner and the other climbing party during their descent.

Looming about 3,000 feet above the valley floor, Yosemite’s website bills El Capitan as the “largest monolith of granite in the world.”

The incident was the second presumed fatality at the national park this past weekend. A 19-year-old Sacramento man was believed dead after he was swept over the 594-foot Nevada fall Saturday afternoon.

Aleh Kalman — who had been hiking the popular Mist Trail with his church group — was swimming about 150 feet away from the precipice when he was caught in a current, park officials said.

His body has not been recovered, but park officials said they believe it’s “impossible” he survived a fall of that magnitude.

Yosemite, which is visited by millions each year, averages 12 to 15 deaths annually, according to park officials.


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