Rangers and chopper crews at Yosemite National Park recently received kudos for a 2011 tech rescue on El Cap that involved the recovery of a severed thumb.

Intrigued? Read the park service a count below.

Yosemite National Park Rangers Win Valor Awards for Technical Rescue
Date: May 9, 2014

Four Yosemite National Park employees received Valor Awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Thursday, May 8, 2014.

The rangers were recognized and honored for their valorous efforts from a complex and technical rescue on El Capitan in September 2011. The awards were given to two Yosemite National Park Rangers, Jeffrey Webb and David Pope, and two Yosemite Helitack Crewmembers Eric Small and Jeff Pirog. Additionally, a private contract park helicopter pilot, Richard Shatto, was also honored with a Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his expertise in piloting the helicopter during the intense rescue operation.

On September 26, 2011, the Yosemite National Park Emergency Communication Center received a call reporting a climber fall on the Nose Route of El Capitan. After two days of climbing, a lead climber sustained a fall that was not life threatening. However, during the fall, a secondary rope became wrapped around his right thumb, severing the appendage clean from the hand.

The severed thumb fell approximately 80 feet and landed on a small ledge. The severed thumb was retrieved by the victim’s climbing partner and put in his pocket.

The park’s contract helicopter, flown by Richard Shatto, along with Pirog, Small, Webb, and Pope, began efforts to extract the climber via short-haul. The helicopter hovered near the climbers and Webb and Pope were successfully short-hauled to the injured party. Once rescuers were on the wall, the injured climber was transported back to El Capitan Meadow. The climber was transferred to another air medical helicopter to be flown out of the park where his thumb was later surgically reattached. The victim fully recovered and regained the use of his thumb.

Eric Small, Yosemite Helicopter Crew Supervisor, has been working for the National Park Service (NPS) since 1997. David Pope, Yosemite Park Ranger, has been working for the NPS since 2004. Jeffrey Webb, currently the North Rim District Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park, has been working for the NPS since 1996. Jeff Pirog, Assistant Helitack Foreman, has been working for the NPS since 1994.