SAN FRANCISCO - Two days of cracking, thundering falling rock at Yosemite National Park have left one man dead, two people injured, and even experienced climbers stunned by the spectacle.
A massive new hunk of granite broke off Thursday at the park’s mountaineering mecca of El Capitan, injuring an elderly man and sending huge plumes of white dust.
“There was so much smoke and debris,” said climber Ryan Sheridan, who had just reached the top of El Capitan when the rock let loose below him. “It filled the entire valley with smoke.”
The slide came a day after a giant slab of granite plunged from the same formation, killing a British man on a hiking and climbing visit and injuring his wife.
“It was in the same location of the previous rock fall,” Sheridan told The Associated Press by cellphone from the mountain. “A larger rock fall let loose, easily three times the size,” Sheridan said.
Second rock fall, second injury
One person was injured and was flown to a hospital, park ranger and spokesman Scott Gediman said. There was no immediate word on the person’s condition.
Officials did not identify the person, but an older man with cuts and scrapes on his face and head was being treated by paramedics after the slide.
Meanwhile, the man killed Wednesday was identified as Andrew Foster, 32, of Wales. The park didn’t identify his wife, but said she remained hospitalized.
The park indicated that seven rock falls actually occurred during a four-hour period Wednesday on the southeast face of El Capitan. However, it was rare for such a collapse to kill anyone, longtime climbers said Thursday.
Park closes road
Yosemite said on its Twitter page that the park was closing a road on the north side of the park because of the rock fall. Officials advised visitors to use the southern access road.
The massive granite slab that fell Wednesday was seen as a rare event, but only because the rock fall turned deadly, longtime climbers said Thursday.
Rocks at the world-renowned park’s climbing routes break loose and crash down about 80 times a year. The elite climbers who flock to the park using ropes and their fingertips to defy death as they scale sheer cliff faces know the risk but also know it’s rare to be hit and killed by the rocks.
Park officials say rock falls overall have killed 16 people since 1857 and injured more than 100.