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Ammon McNeely Recovering After BASE Jumping Accident

Ammon McNeely, recovering from a violent BASE jumping accident earlier this week, shouts at would-be rescuers from El Capitan. An 80-foot fall had just gashed his head, but McNeely refused an evacuation and finished the climb. Click here to read his story of the climb from Alpinist 25, with illustrations (in the printed magazine) by Andreas Schmidt.

“Well, I was really trying to delay posting anything publicly until the surgeons could predict the outcome better and I had time to inform my family and close friends about this incident,” Ammon McNeely started his post on “…but, I guess the cat is out of the bag.”

Several days ago McNeely had a serious BASE-jumping accident outside Moab, Utah. Using a partially new setup, McNeely says he waited a little too long to pull his parachute, which opened at the wrong angle and swung him into a cliff. His left ankle shattered on impact, nearly severing his foot. McNeely put a tourniquet on his leg, but by the time a rescue helicopter arrive, he estimates he had lost nearly three pints of blood.

In surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, 64 miles northeast of Moab, surgeons did not amputate McNeely’s foot as he had expected. “I’m not completely in the clear at this moment, due to possible infection… but, I survived,” he wrote.

An experienced BASE jumper with more than a thousand jumps, McNeely received attention in recent years for two illegal launches in Yosemite National Park, the second of which drew a 38-day prison sentence and $5,000 fine. After his release, he continued BASE jumping, though no longer within off-limits National Park boundaries.

Within the climbing community, the “El Cap Pirate” is best known for his big-wall accomplishments in Yosemite and Zion. He is one very few people who have climbed Latitudes (5.9 A4+), Rodeo Queen (5.10 A4+) and Tale of the Scorpion (5.10 A3+) on Zion’s Streaked Wall, and has climbed El Capitan more than 70 times.

With his numerous climbing accomplishments have also come a number of serious accidents. In March 2004, a refrigerator-sized block of sandstone left McNeely with multiple injuries. He took an 80-foot fall on El Capitan, cracking his helmet and head several years later. At that time, he was still recovering from a dislocated ankle sustained in a parachuting accident five months previous.

“I guess you could say I’m a bit accident-prone, but I like to think I’m not some lumbering bumbly who’s botching it all the time,” McNeely wrote in Alpinist 25. “I’m just always pushing myself, ambling into that tiny realm in space where badass stops and dumbass begins.”

McNeely ended his SuperTopo post with an open question: “Do we stand up and take the risks and have a blast enjoying your passion? Or, do we hide in the shadows, being afraid of what might happen if we are so bold to follow our dreams?”

Sources: Ammon McNeely,

McNeely is well-known in the Western U.S. for his speed ascents in Yosemite, as well as his predilection for hard aid routes with severe consequences. [Illustration] Andreas Schmidt.