A climber spent a “harrowing” night trapped in a canyon after he fell and injured his arm so severely he couldn’t climb back out to safety, Wyoming officials said.
The “challenging” rescue took 24 hours in total, the Wyoming Army National Guard said in an Aug. 29 news release.
The effort required first responders to “navigate extremely rough terrain which dropped 500 feet in elevation the first 500 yards traveled,” Converse County Sheriff’s officials said in an Aug. 17 post on Facebook. The climber had fallen about 612 feet below where first responders had set up a staging area, and they would have to travel another half a mile to get to him.
“The rescue included repelling over rock ledges and traversing swift water in darkness,” sheriff’s officials said.
Ray Daugherty was climbing the Box Elder Canyon in Converse County with climbing partner DJ Gonzales the evening of Aug. 14 when Daugherty lost his grip toward the top of a waterfall and plunged 12 feet onto a rock, according to the release and Facebook post.
He landed in a pool of water with a severely damaged arm, officials said. He was able to free himself from the pool, but couldn’t wouldn’t be able to climb to safety.
Gonzales left him behind, choosing to climb out of the canyon and call for help, the release said.
First responders from local agencies coordinated the rescue and found Daugherty in the early morning — about eight hours since he’d fallen, officials said.
His injuries weren’t life-threatening, but it was clear he couldn’t climb to safety, officials said. Wyoming National Guard members decided he needed to be lifted out of the canyon in a helicopter — but not until dawn.
Photos show first responders swimming at the bottom of the ravine. That night, they “settled in for a cold camp” and the early morning airlift, officials said on Facebook.
An aerial team rescued Daugherty as the sun rose Aug. 15 and flew him to a staging area, where he was then taken to a hospital in Casper, officials said. It took surgeons six hours to reconstruct his elbow.
During the rescue, a first responder found another person in distress in the canyon, the release said.
That person had overheated and passed out as they climbed out of the canyon, officials said.
“This became a second rescue for a rescue team already 18 hours into this grueling mission,” officials said.
The rescue team also lifted that person out of the canyon and took them to the hospital, officials said. Afterward, someone offered up their horse to pack out the rescue equipment so the “tired rescuers didn’t have to,” officials said.
Box Elder Canyon is about 30 miles east of Casper.