Connor Timpone erred when she tied in, and as she lowered from the anchor, the rope came unfastened from her harness. She fell to the ground 30 to 40 feet and jackhammered her femur into her pelvis.
Yosemite National Park opens to the public this Thursday, June 11, but for the past few weeks, the Park has allowed residents from the bordering town of El Portal to enter the gates. Locals have posted photos on Facebook showing the Park crowd-free, the famous waterfalls thundering over the cliffs and clouds splitting apart in the sky with not another soul in sight.
The partial opening gave Connor Timpone, a schoolteacher at the local elementary school, and her partner unlimited access to the Park that usually draws an average of 4 million visitors a year. With trails empty, she had the most popular hikes practically to herself. She rode her bike 30 miles out and back on Glacier Point Road, a winding stretch of pavement overlooking Half Dome that’s usually jammed with cars. She had her pick of routes, which is why on June 4, she and her partner hiked out to Five and Dime Cliff in the lower Merced Canyon to access a crag with 14 routes rated 5.8 to 5.12.
A resident of the Yosemite area for two years and a climber since spring 2018, Timpone was taking it easy. She’s a budding 5.10 leader but instead of pushing it, she led up the 5.8 sport climb Mockery, a 70-foot line with granite blobs and horizontal breaks. This way, her less-experienced friend could get in a top rope burn. The climb went without incident, but while Timpone lowered from the anchor, an accident occurred and her harness snapped.
“The belay was fine,” she told me from the hospital soon after getting out of her second surgery. She sounded happy. “I led the pitch (clean) and the anchor was fine,” she continued, “I got confirmation about the status of the anchor from YOSAR (Yosemite Search and Rescue). Something on my harness snapped.”
Though the accident is still under investigation by the Park Service, Timpone believes she tied into the strap that runs below the belay loop on her harness. Somehow she got distracted and didn’t double-check her knot before leaving the ground. “I got lax doing something I’ve done a million times.”
She hit the ground with her right side, jamming her femur into her hip and causing multiple fractures. She also broke her sacrum (her tailbone) and had “lots of abrasions but no bones sticking out.” Her spinal cord remained intact and she did not damage her central nervous system. She was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. “I’m so lucky to have no neck or back injuries. The femur took some damage.”
She has insurance but due to the extent of her injuries, she has a long road to recovery and will not be able to work for many months.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who’ve been there to support me,” she continued. “I can feel all the warm and fuzzy vibes, which could be drug-induced, even though they can’t visit me cause of Covid-19.”
She is expected to be in the hospital for the foreseeable future. “I’m just so lucky. It could have been a million times worse.”
Timpone’s friends Erica Helling and Simon McIntosh set up a GoFundMe to help aid her recovery. To donate, visit this link.