New Zealand climber Anna Parsons shares story about horror 80ft Yosemite fall

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Anna Parsons, who loves the outdoors, suffered serious injuries when she fell 80 feet while climbing in California’s Yosemite National Park in August 2022.
Photo: Delivered

A Kiwi student who broke nearly every bone in her body last month after a nightmarish mountaineering fall in California has returned home to New Zealand.

Anna Parsons was on the trip of a lifetime with climbing friend Jack Evans when she fell 80 feet in Yosemite National Park on August 1.

The 21-year-old broke her neck, spine, pelvis, ribs and feet. Her left foot was beyond repair 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 stay in Burwood Hospital for up to six weeks while her body heals, and hopes to get a prosthetic foot in the coming weeks.

Speaking from Christchurch, Parsons said the past month had been full of ups and downs, but she was starting to process what had happened.

“I’ve had a few moments where I became aware of my situation that brought me a few tears,” she said.

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“Mourning the loss of the dream I had, that everything would just be a little different, and a little harder, I guess.”

Anna Parsons' foot had to be amputated after the accident and she faces a long road to recovery, but says her body is healing quickly.

Anna Parsons’ foot had to be amputated after the accident and she faces a long road to recovery, but says her body is healing quickly.
Photo: Delivered

Parsons moves using a wheelchair and wears a neck and back brace for extra support.

She said it was a “miracle” that she survived the fall and could remember the moment it happened, while remaining conscious during the ordeal.

“It was a bit cloudy and it rained a little before we started, but it wasn’t heavy. Just a little bit of splashing,” she said.

“It [the climb] was completely 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 complete her studies, but had stopped in the United States with Evans to fulfill her dream of climbing in Yosemite.

She had been on her North American adventure for two days when the accident happened.

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Months of preparation had gone into the journey, including researching climbing routes and barn maps.

But on the day, Parsons made a mistake on one of the bolts, forcing her to a more difficult section of the rock face.

The 21-year-old Otago University student is looking forward to getting back into the great outdoors once she recovers from her accident.  (Anna Parsons)

The 21-year-old Otago University student is looking forward to getting back into the great outdoors once she recovers from her accident.
Photo: Delivered

After reaching a challenging stretch where there weren’t many grips, she set her foot on a piece of rock.

It was a big step, and one she had to commit to.

“It just didn’t stick after I went on it. The rope went slack and I remember my ankle jumping out and rolling.

“I remember my harness was tight. I don’t remember hitting the ledge, but I remember looking at my body when I was sitting on it.”

She fell about 80 feet, but some of the details that followed were blurry because of the pain, Parsons said.

She estimated she was on the ground for about 20 minutes before being rescued, which involved descending from the rock face in a metal cage and being carried to a spot where a helicopter could land.

On top of her broken bones, her lung was also pierced by her rib.

“One minute you’re all right and the dream is alive, and the next you’re in the hospital with a bunch of meds, and you’re not sure what’s true.”

But Parsons is grateful to be home with family again, choosing to remain optimistic despite a long road to recovery.

Her body is healing well and she is hopeful that with the help of a prosthetic foot she can resume some of the outdoor activities she loves so much.

“God takes care of me because he knows I’m not super patient.”

Adding to the stress of Parsons’ accident was the fact that her travel insurance only covered part of the medical bill, which was expected to be more than $1 million.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help cover the costs.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air

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