Safely home: New Zealand climber Anna Parsons shares story of horror 80ft Yosemite fall


Anna Parsons has a keen love for the outdoors. Last month she suffered severe injuries when she fell 80 feet while climbing at Yosemite National Park in California. Photo / Supplied

A Kiwi student who broke nearly every bone in her body after a nightmare rock climbing fall in California last month has made it home to New Zealand.

Anna Parsons was on the trip of a lifetime with climbing friend Jack Evans when she fell 80 feet (24m) at 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.

Following more than six weeks in US hospitals and rehab facilities, Parsons arrived back in the country on Thursday via a direct flight from San Francisco, before being transferred to Christchurch on a medical aircraft.

She expects to be at Burwood Hospital for up to six weeks while her body heals, and is hoping to be fitted with a prosthetic foot in the coming weeks.

Anna Parsons lost her foot following the accident and faces a long road to recovery, but says her body is healing fast. Photo / Supplied
Anna Parsons lost her foot following the accident and faces a long road to recovery, but says her body is healing fast. Photo / Supplied

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

“I’ve had some moments of realisation of my situation which have brought a few tears.

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

Parsons is getting around with the help of a wheelchair and is wearing a neck and back brace for extra support.

She said it was a “miracle” she survived the fall, and can remember the moment it happened, having remained conscious throughout the ordeal.

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

“It [the climb] was fully within my capabilities. We would rate it like a 14 in New Zealand, so I was pretty confident because I can climb 20.”

Parsons, a third-year marine biology student, was en route to Canada to complete her studies, but had stopped off in the United States along with Evans to realise her dream of climbing at Yosemite.

Parsons is happy to be re-united with family in Christchurch, and will be staying at Burwood Hospital for up to six weeks. Photo / Supplied
Parsons is happy to be re-united with family in Christchurch, and will be staying at Burwood Hospital for up to six weeks. Photo / Supplied

She was two days into her North American adventure when the accident happened.

Months of preparation had gone into the trip, including researching climbing routes and scouring maps.

But on the day, Parsons made a misturn at one of the bolts, which forced her on to a more difficult section of the rock face.

After making it across a challenging section where there weren’t many holds, she weighted her foot on a piece of rock.

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

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

The 21-year-old Otago University student is looking forward to getting back into the outdoors once she has recovered from her accident. Photo / Supplied
The 21-year-old Otago University student is looking forward to getting back into the outdoors once she has recovered from her accident. Photo / Supplied

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

Parsons said she fell about 80 feet, but some of the details following are blurry because of the pain.

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

On top of her broken bones, her lung had also been punctured by her rib.

“One minute you’re all good and the dream’s alive, and the next minute you’re in hospital on a whole heap of drugs, and not sure what’s true.”

But Parsons is grateful to be back home with family, and is choosing to stay optimistic despite facing a long road to recovery.

Her body is healing well, and she is hopeful that with the help of a prosthetic foot she can get back to some of the outdoor activities she loves.

“God’s looking out for me because he knows I’m not super patient.”

Added to the stress of Parsons’ accident was the fact her travel insurance only covered part of the medical bill, which was expected to be in excess of $1 million.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help with the cost.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air



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