Dislodged Rock Kills Climber On El Capitan In Yosemite National Park

A freak accident on El Capitan in Yosemite has killed a 28-year-old climber from London. NPT file photo.

In a freak accident on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a lead climber accidentally dislodged a rock that fell about 150 feet and struck and killed his partner.

Park officials say 28-year-old Felix Joseph Kiernan, from London, England, was belaying his partner on the East Buttress of El Capitan when the accident occurred Sunday about 2 p.m.

Mr. Kiernan and his partner were approximately 600 feet up the climbing route when a loose block was dislodged. The block, estimated to be one foot by two feet in size, fell approximately 150 feet before striking Mr. Kiernan and causing fatal injuries, a park release said.

A second party climbing just below Mr. Kiernan immediately called the Yosemite Emergency Communication Center via cell phone and reported the incident. Yosemite Park rangers and Yosemite Search and Rescue personnel were immediately dispatched to El Capitan where they began climbing the route to reach the climbing party.

Park rangers reached the Englishman around 4 p.m. and pronounced him deceased. A California Highway Patrol helicopter, H-40, and the park’s helicopter, Helicopter 551, assisted in the incident by inserting park rangers and rescue equipment onto the wall and hoisting the victim to Yosemite Valley.

Park rangers rappelled down the route with Mr. Kiernan's partner and the second climbing party.