Gina Bartiromo of Camarillo, CA was doing her first hike on the Half Dome cables on June 6, 2009. The weather was marginal at the start of the cable climb and got worse. On the descent, light snow started to fall. She lost her grip in the cold and fell. Then she slid outside the cables and began to slide down the west side, down, down, faster and faster. After 150 feet of sheer terror, she slammed against an upward facing slab and came to a stop.It saved her. Unconscious, but alive. A few others were still at Sub Dome and came up to provide what help they could. 9-1-1 call to YOSAR and help was on its way.
A helicopter was dispatched, but it took 5 tries to land – that’s how bad the weather was. Later, people who were in the valley that day, told me they could not see the top of Half Dome. Gina was “short lined” out to the Ahwahnee Meadow. She was then transferred to a MedVac chopper for the flight to a hospital. Major bone breaks and a fractured skull. The full list of damage: a broken jaw, 3 compression fractures of the spine, a fractured rib and sacrum, substantial misalignment of the coccyx, severe bruising of left glute, leg and back, brain injury (hematomas and bleeding in the brain; semi-conscious for 2 weeks. Wow.
I contacted her via email months later and offered what encouragement I could. We’ve never met but plan to. Gina now telsl her full story with photos on a new Webblog, she calls The Unfolding Self. She has learned how to teach “sitting Yoga” and is making strides to regain her independence. She speaks as a Brain Injury Survivor to help others in their trauma.
I’m not telling you all this to scare you – well yes, I am. The 425 vertical feet you climb up Half Dome is not to be taken lightly. She survived, but a week later a man fell to his death on similarly bad weather. I was there that day. Be careful and assess the risk.
Bless you Gina for you inspiration. And thank you Vanessa, Rick, Peter, the YOSAR team and all others who went the extra mile to help.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” – Neil Gaiman
MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com