A MASSIVE chunk of rock “the size of buildings” fell from a US mountain, killing one person and injuring another during the peak of climbing season.
Around 30 climbers were scaling El Capitan in Yosemite National Park yesterday when the rock gave way and smashed into the ground below.
El Capitan is one of the world’s largest granite monoliths towering 4,000 feet above Yosemite Valley in California.
Shocking pictures on social media from hundreds of feet up the wall show billowing white dust moments after the crash.
“I saw a piece of rock, white granite the size of an apartment building, at least 100 feet by 100 feet, suddenly just come peeling off the wall with no warning,” said Canadian climber Peter Zabrok, 57, who was scaling El Capitan and just above the rock fall.
Zabrok said he has climbed El Capitan dozens of times and has “never seen anything like this”.
At 2,000 feet up on the rock, Zabrok said he saw a rescuer lowered by helicopter who grabbed a survivor.
He later saw rescuers moving someone on a (rope) litter as it emerged at least one injured person was later taken to hospital.
Zabrok added: “It was done at tremendous peril to the rescuers because there were three subsequent rockfalls that were all nearly as big and would have killed anybody at the base.”
Mountaineers from around the world travel to the park in the Sierra Nevada.
This is currently peak season because the days are long and the weather is warm.
Rock falls are common in Yosemite but seldom fatal.
Ken Yager, president and founder of the Yosemite Climbing Association, believed the relatively thin piece that broke off covered an area big enough to fit five houses.
“It cratered and sent stuff mushrooming out in all directions,” said Yager.
In 2013, a rock dislodged and severed the rope of a Montana climber who was scaling El Capitan.
Mason Robison, 38, fell about 230 feet to his death, after his gear dug into the mountain and caused the rock to dislodge.
Yosemite remained open after Wednesday’s rock fall, and other activities throughout the park weren’t affected, rangers said.
Climber Kevin Jorgeson said he and climbing partner Tommy Caldwell witnessed a massive rock fall in the same area two years ago.
“Yosemite is just a really active, wild place,” Jorgeson said. “It doesn’t make it any less tragic when someone gets in the way of that.”