Free Solo climbing falls are normally assumed to be fatal. Just a couple of weeks ago in Yosemite a free solo climber fell over 150 feet and lived after a helicopter evacuation.
On the morning of the 11th of April a couple of climbers were gearing up to climb the “After Seven” route on the Manure Pile Buttress. Just before they set off they saw a lone climber lacing up his shoes and heading towards the start of the popular “Nutcracker” route just a few routes to the right.
The Manure Pile Buttress on the North side of Yosemite is 600 foot tall formation with a variety of classic, easier multi-pitch routes to take half a day on. As these routes are fairly straight forward slab climbing it is pretty common to see experienced climbers attempt them free solo.
A couple of pitches later the climbers heard a thud that “clearly wasn’t normal“. Soon after that came yelling from another party to call 911. The free soloist had fallen from somewhere on the fourth pitch at the bulge, to a ledge at the top of the second. In total the fall was estimated to be around 150 to 200 foot.
The free soloist was Josh Ourada, an experienced and well loved climber from the California area. He’d previously climbed the same route both with and without a rope without issue.
Another climber Cole Ramney was standing on the ledge they fell to and had to jump out of the way to not be hit. Cole stayed with the fallen climber on the ledge, taking care of him for four hours and assisting with the rescue.
A helicopter rescue was carried out with the chopper getting extremely close to the wall in order to lift them out. You can watch some footage of the close rescue here.
Miraculously Josh is alive though has suffered multiple injuries even after a normally fatal free solo fall. His friends started a public gofundme to help with the medical cost – we encourage you to consider helping.
Josh has updated it, saying: –
“I can’t say how grateful I am for all the support! I never expected to have me of these setup and am forever indebted to all. Thanks so much to everyone for the donations, support, and love through all of this.
For those that don’t know I shattered my right heel, sprained my left ankle and received a large laceration on my foot, fractured my pelvis, exploded my L1 vertebrae, broke some ribs, collapsed my right lung, and broke my left thumb. I had surgery to fuse my spine, put a plate and pins in my thumb, and pins in my heel. Due to the spinal cord injury I currently have no function or feeling from my ankles to my toes and have no control over my bowel movements. The doctors have classified my spinal cord injury as T12 80% complete. Essentially this means I have an 80% chance of not gaining any function or feeling back.
Aside from that, the medical staff has said the healing/recovery is going smoothly!“
The climber also commented on the MP post : –
“I had soloed the route comfortably before but mistakes happen. The fall was maybe 150-200ft. I was halfway up the 4th pitch pulling the bulge and either had a hand, foot, or both slip. The fall was “clean” aside from landing on the ledge at the start of pitch 3. I tried clawing, grabbing, and doing anything I could to slow down or catch myself on a hold on the way down which might be the only reason I survived (I had some gnarly road rash and burns on my palms from this).”
Josh still plans to climb and get back to Yosemite asap from his latest instagram posts. Surviving a free solo fall is once in a decade news in the rock climbing world. We wish them all the best in his recovery and getting back to the granite.