Yosemite Rangers Win Valor Awards for Technical Rescue


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Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - May 9, 2014 - 03:27pm PT
News Release Date: May 9, 2014
Helicopter Pilot Given Citizen’s Award for Bravery

Four Yosemite National Park employees received Valor Awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on yesterday, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The rangers were recognized and honored for their valorous efforts from a complex and technical rescue on El Capitan in September 2011. The awards were given to two Yosemite National Park Rangers, Jeffrey Webb and David Pope, and two Yosemite Helitack Crewmembers Eric Small and Jeff Pirog. Additionally, a private contract park helicopter pilot, Richard Shatto, was also honored with a Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his expertise in piloting the helicopter during the intense rescue operation.

“The work of these Yosemite employees, along with the helicopter pilot, exemplify professionalism and quick, strategic thinking in a rapidly changing and dangerous environment,” stated Kevin Killian, Yosemite National Park Chief Ranger. “I am extremely proud of the work of these individuals and am elated that they are receiving this distinguished recognition.”

On September 26, 2011, the Yosemite National Park Emergency Communication Center received a call reporting a climber fall on the Nose Route of El Capitan. After two days of climbing, a lead climber sustained a fall that was not life threatening. However, during the fall, a secondary rope became wrapped around his right thumb, severing the appendage clean from the hand. The severed thumb fell approximately 80 feet and landed on a small ledge. The severed thumb was retrieved by the victim’s climbing partner and put in his pocket. The park’s contract helicopter, flown by Richard Shatto, along with Pirog, Small, Webb, and Pope, began efforts to extract the climber via short-haul. The helicopter hovered near the climbers and Webb and Pope were successfully short-hauled to the injured party. Once rescuers were on the wall, the injured climber was transported back to El Capitan Meadow. The climber was transferred to another air medical helicopter to be flown out of the park where his thumb was later surgically reattached. The victim fully recovered and regained the use of his thumb.

Eric Small, Yosemite Helicopter Crew Supervisor, has been working for the National Park Service (NPS) since 1997. David Pope, Yosemite Park Ranger, has been working for the NPS since 2004. Jeffrey Webb, currently the North Rim District Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park, has been working for the NPS since 1996. Jeff Pirog, Assistant Helitack Foreman, has been working for the NPS since 1994.

The Valor Award, established in 1957, recognizes an employee's demonstration of unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. The heroic act or rescue performed does not have to be related to the nominee's official duties nor occur at their official duty station. The Citizen’s Award for Bravery is granted to private citizens for heroic acts or unusual bravery in the face of danger. Honorees receive a special certificate and citation signed by the Secretary of the Interior for risking their lives to save the life of any person while on property owned by or entrusted by the Department of the Interior.

Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue conducts hundreds of rescues each year. These range from lost hikers to complex technical rescues like the one described above. The efforts in this incident highlight the skill, dedication, and commitment to service that exemplifies the Search and Rescue team in Yosemite National Park.


Tom's El Cap Report from that day: http://www.elcapreport.com/content/special-edition-elcap-rescue-92611

Well done boys!

san francisco
May 9, 2014 - 03:59pm PT
I don't wanna meet them, but I sure appreciate them!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 9, 2014 - 04:04pm PT
Wow, short haul from the ledge below Camp 5 on the Nose.
That is potentially risky indeed.

One of Tom's photos shows the injured hand.
It looks like the rope ran over his other fingers, too.
But thanks to the fast rescue, he got his thumb back.
Hopefully it is still on and functional.

Social climber
May 9, 2014 - 04:57pm PT
hey there say, paul... great share... thank you ...

need some good 'hero' type inspirations...

helps boost a good feeling for your fellow man, or those in need of
miracle-saves, etc...

so many 'walls' in life, nice to life-giving, in action, as folks dare to do so...

in light of all that could go wrong, and in light of the rescues that we all wish could have happened, but never did, etc... in life...

these really touch the heart, when things don't go wrong and we can
be so deeply thankful...

Trad climber
Fresno CA
May 9, 2014 - 05:13pm PT
Thumb(s) up to those guys!

Hear, hear! Thanks for this post, Paul.


Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
May 9, 2014 - 05:20pm PT
WOW. . . this is thrilling. What a wonderful honor. I have such strong respect for what YOSAR continues to achieve.

Congratulations to everybody.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
May 9, 2014 - 05:30pm PT
Unsung heroes, those pilots and the short-haul crews. They have truly pioneered helo-rescues with short-haul crews.

This is what makes Americans great. They ability to give a f*#k, and find a solution to overcome obstacles to get a man who's down.

I'm sure other are smart and give a f*#k, but we seem to excel at this stuff.

Team America, f*#k yeah!!!!

sorry to get political.....
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
May 9, 2014 - 07:00pm PT
There are good rescue teams in other countries, too.
For example, helicopter rescue on Everest, although it has different risk factors.

That doesn't take anything away from what these guys were willing to do and did.
Crashes do happen and are usually catastrophic.

May 9, 2014 - 09:50pm PT
As I remember that one was one of the hairiest of all time as a helo insert and pick off.

The pilot did and exemplary job.

He literately had to swing the the first rescuer towards the climbers on the wall.

Not any easy task with the winds at that time and other dangerous changing dynamics.

The rescuers on the long line were completely at the mercy of the pilot,
while the spotter at the door is watching all the different dynamics changing continually in real time and updating the pilot.

Hairy ass crazy ass sh!t .....


Trad climber
May 9, 2014 - 10:13pm PT

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
May 9, 2014 - 10:39pm PT
Good to see this stuff getting its well deserved recognition. From time to time we may have our issues with the NPS in the ditch but we also have nothing but the highest respect for things like this.

Beers on me anytime anywhere.


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
May 10, 2014 - 12:11am PT
Kick ass!!!!!

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
May 10, 2014 - 12:14am PT
Much like getting snatched out of the von's parking lot...
the albatross

Gym climber
May 10, 2014 - 12:27am PT
There are many women and men around this country and the world who are willing to hang it out each and every day to help others in time of need. We only hear snippets of their valor.

This rescue sounds sketchy.

My hat is off to all those folks, in thanks.
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
May 10, 2014 - 12:27am PT
It's gettin' real in the super topo parking lot,
You know the deal with the political agenda rambo lot...

Great job to the Rangers!

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
May 10, 2014 - 12:47am PT
It was some rescue!! The report got over 44,000 hits on my site alone and it was repeated in a national magazine on two other occasions... good press is normally hard to come by these days! They did a great job for sure... If you haven't, you should take a moment to read the report... the pics really tell the story better than any words I could write.

Trad climber
Lake Arrowhead
May 10, 2014 - 11:57am PT
Hey is this an award that only NP employees and contractors are eligible for? Is YOSAR eligible for this award. Ever happened?

May 10, 2014 - 11:58am PT
Is YOSAR eligible for this award.


It's an arm of the Law Enforcement Protection division.

YOSAR is run by the Law Enforcement Protection division .......
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