Ranger saves hiker with heart problems at Half Dome

On Tuesday, June 26, Ranger Scott Sabo was pulling his shift at 7,900 ft high “Sub Dome,” the 425 foot “bump” before hikers ascend the famous cables at Yosemite’s Half Dome. One of his primary functions is to check hikers to make sure they hold valid permits to continue on their quest to reach the top of the signature landmark of the park.

The rangers at Sub Dome use an iPad with a daily updated list of permit holders. It can be a long, hot, uneventful assignment for the Protection Division rangers with this duty.  This day was different. Ranger Sabo had to call on his NPS training and it paid off – he saved the life of a Sacramento area man.  Don M. of Rocklin, a blog reader and Half Dome veteran sent me this first person account of the day.

“I hiked HD with some friends on June 26. One of my friends (with a previous heart condition) began having chest pains once he came down from the cables. We fed him aspirin and stayed with him for a while hoping the chest pains would pass. They didn’t. Now in rescue-mode, two of us high-tailed it down to where the ranger was checking permits to hopefully radio for help. We found him; his name was Scott Sabo. I can’t say enough praise about his professionalism. We told him our predicament and he asked us a few questions. As soon as he heard our friend had a history of heart problems, he dropped everything (even his iPad) and said “You guys are going to make it down on foot, but your friend isn’t!” He then practically sprinted up Sub Dome to the saddle to check on our buddy. He told us to continue down the hill to the Little Yosemite Valley Ranger Station to get an update. As we hiked we wondered how things were progressing; then we knew. We could hear the rescue helicopter approaching the top of Sub Dome from the north. We had mixed feelings at that point—we knew that Ranger Scott made it to our comrade, but we also knew he was serious enough to need to be flown off the top.

Chopper landing on Sub Dome

YOSAR prepping hiker for transfer to Helicopter

As we passed hikers along the trail who were stopped and watching the helicopter from the distance, we could see the wheels in their minds spinning. “Did someone fall?” We told the story at least a dozen times that “no… nobody fell, that’s just our friend up there having a heart attack.” It’s easy to look back and laugh now that everything turned out all right. He was flown to the Valley, then another helicopter ride to Modesto Doctors Hospital. He had almost complete blockage and had two stents replaced the next morning. He recovered nicely, so much so that we had dinner with him and his family on Friday—thanks to YOSAR.”

A tip of the hat to Don, Ranger Scott Seto and the entire rescue team.

Postscript: The impacted hiker (name withheld for his privacy), is recovering well. Surgeons went in through an artery in his leg to place two stents above and left of his heart. I hope to meet Don this Saturday as we are both hiking Half Dome then.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: You’ll never break, never break, never break, never break – this heart of stone. Oh, no, no, this heart of stone.” – Rolling Stones

MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome


About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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