1 dead, 1 hurt in rockfall at Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan

One person was killed and another injured Wednesday in a large rockfall from Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, officials said.

About 30 climbers were on El Capitan just before 2 p.m. when the rock came crashing down a popular climbing route along the East Buttress of the monolith, according to the National Park Service.

The name of the person killed was not released. Park rangers took the injured person to a hospital for treatment while a helicopter hovered above to survey the damage. It’s unclear if any other climbers or tourists were hurt.

The release point appears to have been near the waterfall route, where the seasonal Horsetail Fall flows in the winter and spring. The site draws experienced climbers from around the world seeking to scale the granite monolith, which towers more than 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley.


Photos posted on social media by witnesses showed a plume of dust billowing from the rock formation after the crash. The size of the rockfall was not immediately clear.

Yosemite Valley, with its steep, glacier-carved cliffs, has seen many rockfalls, though fatalities are rare. In more than a century of record-keeping, rockfalls at Yosemite National Park have resulted in at least 17 fatalities, 85 injuries and damage to buildings, roads and trails, according to news and park reports.

In 2013, a 28-year-old man died as he attempted to climb El Capitan. Felix Joseph Kiernan and his climbing partner were about 600 feet up the East Buttress when Kiernan’s partner stood on a rock and knocked it loose.

The 1-by-2-foot rock fell about 150 feet before it struck Kiernan, officials said. Another climbing party below the pair used a cellphone to call for help, but Kiernan was pronounced dead when rangers reached him about two hours later.

A couple weeks earlier, another man died after a rock dislodged and sliced his line. Mason Robison, 38, fell about 230 feet before a second line stopped his fall, but he was pronounced dead when search and rescue teams reached him.

Most rockfalls occur during periods of heavy rain, snowmelt or cold temperatures. Geologists actively monitor the rock walls and hillsides throughout the park, officials have said.

On Wednesday, Yosemite National Park remained open to visitors.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Twitter: @AleneTchek




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9:10 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information about Wednesday’s incident as well as background on other fatalities.

This article was originally published at 4:50 p.m.