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Climber Falls in Crevice at J Tree: High-Angle Rescue and Airlift to Hospital

Joshua Tree National Park, August 2011. Banning-Beaumont Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.
Joshua Tree National Park, August 2011. Banning-Beaumont Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.
A woman was rock climbing New Year's Day in the Hemingway Buttress area at Joshua Tree National Park when she fell into a crevice about 100 feet off the ground, and volunteers responded for a five hour high-angle rescue, a park official said Thursday.

The woman, identified as Kennya Pimentel, 20 of Las Vegas, "was not wearing a safety helmet and initially complained of both head and hip injuries," Lorna Shuman of Joshua Tree National Park said in a statement.

Pimentel was flown by a sheriff's helicopter crew to Desert Regional in Palm Springs, where she was released without serious injury Thursday morning, Shuman said.

It was not clear from Shuman's account what route Pimentel was climbing when she fell. The Hemingway Buttress area is home to numerous established climbs, rated 5.6 to 5.11.

It was also unclear whether Pimentel was climbing alone, or roped with a partner or a group.

During her climb, Pimentel "fell about six feet and became wedged in a crevice approximately 100 feet above the ground," Shuman said.

Park rangers, Joshua Tree Search and Rescue volunteers and deputies responded.

Search and rescue volunteers "used a high angle rescue system to extract Ms. Pimentel from the crevice, and safely lower her to the ground," Shuman said. "All precautions were taken to stabilize her during the evacuation."

Pimentel was then airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center and released Thursday morning, Shuman said.

"Fortunately she sustained no serious injury," Shuman said. "The rescue took about five hours."

The Jan. 1 incident was one of several "search and rescue emergencies" in Joshua Tree National Park in recent days, Shuman said.

On Monday and Tuesday, an unspecified number of park visitors sustained minor injuries, including a twisted ankle, Shuman said.

National Park Service rangers also initiated a search for an overdue hiker who lost the trail when the sun set in the Black Rock Canyon area late New Year's Day, Shuman said.

"The Joshua Tree National Park staff reminds all visitors to please be careful when hiking and climbing in the park," Shuman said. "Be aware of your surroundings, wear protective helmets and gear when climbing, always carry a flashlight or headlamp, and be aware of sunset times so you do not get caught on a trail in the dark."

Joshua Tree National Park, which covers more than 1,200 square miles in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is known worldwide for its rock formations, especially in the global climbing community.

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