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Severed thumb reattached after 80-foot fall at El Capitan

September 28, 2011 |  6:34 pm

El Capitan
An Austrian climber at Yosemite National Park whose thumb was severed by a rope during a fall from El Capitan had the digit reattached after it dropped about 80 feet down the granite face and was recovered from a small ledge.

"The severed thumb miraculously fell approximately 80 feet and landed on a two foot by one foot ledge," park officials said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

The incident began Monday afternoon as two rock climbers, on their second day of traversing the famed monolith, were about 1,000 below the summit, officials said.

The lead climber fell, severing a thumb on the rope. His climbing partner was able to retrieve the thumb, officials said.

Park rangers used a helicopter to complete what officials described as a "complex high-angle" rescue in which the rangers dangled by ropes and removed the injured man from the wall.

The rangers were aware that the thumb had been severed and recovered. They made the decision to conduct the dangerous rescue in the hopes of getting the man to a hospital so the digit could be reattached, officials said.

The surgery was conducted at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.


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Photo: El Capitan, at left, is shrouded in hues of magenta, pink and red at sunset last October.

Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times