Climbing With Friends
21-year-old Anna Parsons is an outdoor enthusiast and was enjoying what she loves to do most on August 1, 2022. She had no idea what would happen that fateful day.
She just arrived in the U.S. two days earlier with her friend and classmate, Jack Evans. They were marine science students from New Zealand on their way to a foreign exchange program and stopped in Yosemite for a few days of climbing.
Parsons, already an avid surfer and mountain biker, had recently started climbing with Evans just a few months prior. And despite their new beginnings, Evans explains in an interview with Climbing magazine, “We felt very comfortable climbing together. We had our systems dialed.”
Yosemite National Park
The pair started the day before with a 300-ft. climb at one of Yosemite’s most popular areas, Swan Gully (5.6). Swan Gully is also the same place Yosemite Mountaineering School hosts its beginning climbing classes.
Capitalizing on their success at Swan Gully, the pair pushed on the next morning with an attempt at Snake Dike, also known as “Snake Hike.” Snake Dike, however, is a different type of climb. It begins with a healthy, six-mile approach, gaining over 2.500 ft. of vertical before positioning yourself for a southwesterly approach. Next, a taxing three-hour climb is typically required to summit this beast, something David Schmidt, author at Climbing Magazine, describes as,
“…a slithering series of diorite backbones and lithic vertebrae for 800 feet. Best climbed in summer and fall, the route takes its “R” rating mainly from the first pitch’s mandatory 80- foot runout off the deck to a 5.7 friction move beneath an L-shaped roof with dubious—if any—pro. (The testy third pitch is possibly the mental crux of the climb, with an exposed 5.7 friction traverse.) On pitch one, leaders have a choice between the standard 5.7 moves and a harder—but better protected—underlying traverse (5.9), and while the rest of the climb is sporty (sometimes 75 feet between clips), the climbing mellows considerably as the angle kicks back and the knobs get bigger, allowing you to focus on your flow. Each of Snake Dike’s eight pitches offers something memorable, especially the prominent extruded dike that appears on the third pitch and continues through the sixth.”
Slip, Fall, & Rescue
It’s tough to decipher what exactly went wrong. It appears as though Parsons had successfully moved ahead on one of the pitches yet failed to notice the corresponding anchor. After recognizing her mistake and attempting to down climb to reach the anchor, she apparently lost her footing and tumbled down the slab approximately 80-ft. before being stopped on belay by Evans.
An Emergency Evacuation with Yosemite Search & Rescue (YOSAR) soon thereafter landed Parsons in a nearby hospital and in critical condition. Parsons suffered innumerable injuries; most notably to her neck, pelvis, lungs, ribs, and legs (involving amputation of her left foot) as well as a fractured spine that required artificial vertebrae to complete the surgical repair. Miraculously, she avoided any significant head injury. Her friend Evans said, “The helmet she was wearing was completely demolished. It was extremely lucky that she had it on.” Doctors were reported to have said it saved her life.
Recovery & Rehabilitation
Now begins the difficult and long journey battle of recovery and rehabilitation. Despite multiple surgeries and the horrible tragedy, she had just gone through, Parsons remains resilient and in good spirits, as Evans reported, “She was awake and positive only 24 hours after this incredibly traumatic thing, and still in so much pain, but smiling, cracking a joke, laughing.”
With New Zealand covering citizens under a no-fault personal injury insurance policy up to $250,000, Parsons will still be left with the remainder of her medical expenses. Her medical care now totals more than $1.2 million. Her sister Jessica created a Givealittle page (New Zealand’s GoFundMe) for Anna with a goal of $500,000. They have reportedly already raised half of their goal.
Although there is no definite timetable for her discharge, Anna’s family intends to fly her home as soon as she is able. We wish her all the very best for a safe and speedy recovery and hope she gets back to what she loves doing best very soon.