YOSEMITE — It was a deadly weekend at Yosemite National Park, as officials reported Monday that a climber was killed on El Capitan on Sunday, just a day after a teenager was swept over Nevada Fall.
Felix Joseph Kiernan of London was climbing the east buttress of El Capitan, a popular route, when he was struck by a rock Sunday afternoon, park officials said.
Kiernan and his climbing partner were about 600 feet up the route when a loose block of granite was dislodged. The block, estimated to be 1 feet by 2 feet, fell about 150 feet before striking Kiernan, causing fatal injuries.
A second party climbing just below Kiernan immediately called the Yosemite Emergency Communication Center to report the incident about 2 p.m.
Rangers and Yosemite search and rescue personnel were dispatched to El Capitan, where they began climbing up the route to get to Kiernan, his partner and the other climbing party.
Park officials said rangers reached Kiernan about 4 p.m. and pronounced him dead. A California Highway Patrol helicopter and the park's helicopter were used to get rangers and rescue equipment onto El Capitan.
After Kiernan's body was hoisted off the wall and flown to the valley floor, rangers rappelled down the route with his partner and the other climbing party.
Meanwhile, the search for a teen swept over Nevada Fall was put on hold until water levels in the Merced River subside.
Park officials said Monday that rangers on regular patrol continue to keep an eye on the stretch of river below the base of the 594-foot fall. But they will not be walking the banks.
Aleh Kalman, 19, of Sacramento was carried by swift currents over the fall Saturday after stopping to swim in the river. Kalman was among a group of 85 people from various churches hiking the route that leads to Half Dome.
The amount of snowmelt fueling the flow has since increased. Park officials said rangers will renew their search when the river subsides.
Kalman was swimming above the fall at 2:45 p.m. when the current caught him as he tried to go from a rock in the middle of the Merced River to the bank. Witnesses saw Kalman go over the fall.
Ground teams and a CHP helicopter immediately were dispatched to the area to begin searching for Kalman but did not see him. Search efforts continued throughout the evening until fading light prevented further efforts, park officials reported.
Three dog teams and about 20 search-and-rescue personnel on the ground looked for him again Sunday, but couldn't find him, authorities said.
Kalman was part of a church group that had hiked the Mist Trail, authorities said. The trail from the footbridge above Emerald Pool to the top of Nevada Fall was closed Sunday as searchers continued looking for Kalman, but it has since reopened.
The apparent death at Yosemite is the second in the same area this year. A 73-year-old Minnesota man died in May when he apparently fell after stopping to take a photo at Vernal Fall.
In July 2011, three hikers from the Central Valley lost their lives when they fell into the Merced River and went over Vernal Fall.