New Zealand mountaineer Anna Parsons shares the horror story of the 80ft drop in Yosemite
A Kiwi student who broke almost every bone in her body after a nightmarish climbing fall in California last month has returned home to New Zealand.
Anna Parsons was on the trip of her life with her climber friend Jack Evans when she fell 80ft at Yosemite National Park on August 1.
The 21-year-old broke her neck, spine, pelvis, ribs and feet. His left foot was irreparable and was amputated shortly after the accident.
After more than six weeks in US hospitals and rehabilitation centers, Parsons returned to the country on Thursday via a direct flight from San Francisco, before being transferred to Christchurch on a medical plane.
She expects to be in Burwood Hospital for up to six weeks while her body heals and hopes to receive a prosthetic foot in the coming weeks.
Speaking from Christchurch, Parsons said the past month has been full of ups and downs, but she is accepting of what has happened.
“I had a few moments of realizing my situation that brought me a few tears,” she said.
“Crying the loss of the dream I had, that everything would just be a little different and a little harder, I guess.”
Parsons uses a wheelchair and wears a neck and back brace for additional support.
She said it was a “miracle” that she survived the fall and remembered when it happened, having remained conscious throughout the ordeal.
“It was a little overcast and it rained a bit before we started, but it wasn’t heavy. Just a little splash,” she said.
“This [the climb] was well within my capabilities. We would rate it as a 14 in New Zealand, so I was pretty confident because I can climb 20.”
Parsons, a third-year marine biology student, was on her way to Canada to finish her studies, but stopped in the United States with Evans to fulfill her dream of climbing Yosemite.
She was two days into her North American adventure when the accident happened.
Months of preparation had gone into the trip, including finding climbing routes and finding maps.
But that day, Parsons tripped on one of the bolts, which forced her to head for a more difficult section of the rock face.
After traversing a difficult section where there weren’t many holds, she propped her foot on a piece of rock.
It was a big move, and she had to commit to it.
“It just didn’t stick after I went through it. The rope came loose and I remember my ankle coming out and rolling.
“I remember my harness was tight. I don’t remember hitting the ledge, but I do remember looking at my body when I was on it.”
She fell about 80 feet, but some of the following details were blurred due to pain, Parsons said.
She estimated that she lay on the ground for around 20 minutes before being rescued, which involved being abseiled down the rock face in a metal cage and carried to a site where a helicopter could land.
In addition to his broken bones, his lung had also been punctured by his rib.
“One minute you’re fine and the dream is alive, and the next minute you’re in the hospital with a whole bunch of medicine, and you don’t know what’s real.”
But Parsons is grateful to be back home with his family and chooses to remain optimistic despite a long road to recovery.
Her body is healing well and she hopes that with the help of a prosthetic foot she can resume some of the outdoor activities she enjoys.
“God is watching over me because he knows I’m not super patient.”
Added to the stress of Parsons’ accident was the fact that his travel insurance only covered part of the medical bill, which was expected to exceed $1 million.
A Givealittle page has been set up to help with the cost.
Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air