By Shawn Chitnis
ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A man from Aspen who fell down a mountain in Yosemite National Park in October says the only way out of that dangerous spot was a helicopter rescue. He is grateful to the team who saved him and got his climbing partner safely out of that situation.
“The top piece that I had popped out and then it kind of had a trigger effect on the rest of the gear you had,” said Vincent Worth. “Once it popped, then I started dropping, then I can hear the other pieces pop, and then I start going farther and farther, kind of tumbling out of control.”
Worth has lived in Colorado for more than a decade. He moved to the state to enjoy the outdoors and find more places to rock climb. He has lived in different spots around the state but has spent more of this time near Aspen. For the past few years he has visited Yosemite in the spring and fall, spending two weeks there. He often pursues single day routes but has tried to get into more flat wall challenges.
“Pretty scared for a second, hoping that I get caught by the rope before I get smacked by something hard,” said Worth.
He and his climbing partner hiked up the approach of Mount Watkins and slept on a ledge that was already a couple hundred feet above ground. He says he was in the middle of their second day climb when he had to use some gear that can barely support his body weight. Worth says he was close to connecting to a stronger piece of equipment when he fell 40 to 50 feet.
“Eventually I had a big piece of gear that caught me,” he said. “I’ve fallen climbing but I had never fallen like that.”
His climbing partner helped him get to a safe spot, but Worth quickly realized he was bleeding and in a lot of pain. He knew to put pressure on it, but was feeling cold and going into shock.
“My arm was really throbbing. It looked like it was okay, but it kind of hurt pretty badly,” Worth said.
He estimates they were 1,500 feet above the valley and when his partner checked his injury. He could see the bleeding and Worth sensed the bone in his arm moving around. So his climbing partner turned on his phone and called search and rescue.
It turns out there was already a helicopter in the area, and the team was able to respond quickly. He was able to sit down on the ledge while they waited, a helicopter found them in about 20 minutes.
A rescuer had to come down and attach himself to the wall before they could lift up worth in a seat. He was then put in an ambulance and properly examined; he had a compound fracture.
It could have turned out worse if left without treatment, infection to the bone could lead to amputation or death, Worth said. He had surgery that night and a plate put inside his arm.
“I just feel really lucky with everything,” he said. “I’m just glad it wasn’t way worse.”
Looking back at the experience, Worth told CBS4 on Tuesday he had to get help by helicopter. He and his climbing partner could not have moved up or down on the mountain to reach a safe spot. Speaking with a sling over his arm and waiting to start physical therapy, he hopes to ski in a month and get to an indoor climb in a couple months.
“The sport is overall pretty safe as long as you’re doing everything correctly,” he said. “I don’t think I would really change anything, I’m just very fortunate that this happened.”
While he plans to keep doing the sport he loves, he has gained some perspective along the way from this most recent climb. He appreciates all the concern he got from loved ones and felt the need to reach out to them himself. He remains grateful to the team that saved him that day.
“It’s amazing just what California Highway Patrol and Yosemite Search and Rescue did for me,” said Worth. “Makes you want to reach out to friends and family.”