Large rock falls off Yosemite’s El Capitan
Alex J. Wood was in Yosemite Valley snapping photos of El Capitan’s scenic rock face Monday morning when he heard what sounded like the “loudest thunder ever.”
He immediately looked up and saw a huge rock falling down the famous granite slab.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Wood, who was taking pictures and capturing the final portion of the rock’s fall on video. “It looked like a giant, oversized wing falling over in slow motion. … It was crazy.
“Because I already interpreted [my camera] I managed to film it on El Capitan,” said Wood, a sculptor traveling to California from London.
He watched as huge clouds of dust rose from where the rock hit the ground.
No one was injured in the Yosemite National Park incident and a visitor was on hand to capture the moment.
Wood was far enough away from the rock fall that he said he wasn’t worried about his safety. However, he was concerned about climbers he had seen on the side of El Capitan and possible hikers nearby.
But park officials later said no one was hurt.
“No one was injured and there was no damage,” said ranger Scott Gediman, a spokesman for Yosemite National Park.
After the incident, Gediman said the park closed Northside Drive — the road closest to the site — for more than 24 hours while geologists assessed the damage and monitored for other potential debris or rockfalls.
The first rock fell from the east face of El Capitan, not far from Horsetail Fall – the site of Yosemite’s famous firefall. The phenomenon occurs when the setting sun hits the El Capitan waterfall in such a way that it appears as if lava is flowing down the rock face. The peak time for firefalls is late February, which often draws throngs of visitors and photographers, but Gediman said Monday’s rockfall did not affect this popular tourist event.
Wood said he stayed in the park until sundown Monday and was able to capture the phenomenon just hours after the rockfall was recorded.
Gediman said “a few more boulders” were coming down the steep peak Monday night, although geologists noted they likely broke loose during the first fall.
The park’s one-way street reopened Tuesday night.
“Rock falls are common; they are natural,” said Gediman. “There are rockfalls every day. Some are heard, some are not.”
He said the first rock to fall was an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 cubic meters in size — significantly smaller than a massive boulder that fell in 2017, the last rockfall activity on El Capitan as of Monday. Gediman did not have an estimated weight for the stone that fell on Monday.
The park reported rockfalls on consecutive days in September 2017, the first of which killed one visitor and injured another, while the latter injured at least one. The fatal rockfall was a slab of granite estimated to be the height of a 13-story building – about 130 feet long, 65 feet wide and 10 feet thick in some sections – while the rock that fell the following day was estimated to be about 10 feet Times bigger, officials said.
Gediman said Monday’s rockfall paled in comparison, although it still caused significant noise and disruption – but thankfully no injuries.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-23/yosemite-el-capitan-rock-fall Large rock falls off Yosemite’s El Capitan