An Albuquerque woman is in serious condition after falling off a cliff and landing flat on her back near the Sandia Crest early Thursday morning, authorities say.
The experienced climber was rappelling down a steep rock formation when she fell nearly 30 feet onto her back after a rock she grabbed broke off the mountain. Although in extreme pain, she was conscious and managed to call friend and experienced mountain guide Marc Beverly, who informed rescuers before arriving.
Due to windy conditions, nearly 30 rescuers could not perform a hoist rescue as expected, and had to rappel down the steep and rocky terrain to retrieve the woman, Sgt. Aaron Williamson of Bernalillo County Sheriff Department Rescuers told ABC News.
A rescue helicopter was waiting at the top of the mountain to airlift the climber to University of New Mexico Hospital.
When Beverly received the call he could tell his friend was in serious pain. "I almost thought she wasn't going to make it," Beverly told ABC affiliate KOAT, "like she wasn't going to be okay by the time I got to her."
Beverly is a medic at the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council (AMRC), a non-profit volunteer service specializing in technical rescues in the New Mexico mountains.
AMRC President Lance Johnson told ABC news that the woman was a highly experienced climber. Though wearing a helmet and harness, she sustained severe injuries which left her unable to move.
"This is pretty uncommon," Johnson added. "We may see one to three hiking rescues a year that actually require a rope access rescue."
While the woman's condition is described as critical, the extent of her injuries was unknown by the Sheriff's Department and because authorities have not released her name, the hospital was unable to provide any information.
The woman was described as being in her early fifties and was accompanied by a climbing partner who aided her while waiting for rescuers.
Hiking and climbing injuries are not uncommon in the Sandias. The national park's large granite peaks attract thousands of experienced climbers each year.