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Search & Rescue

Canyoneering Fatality in Death Valley National Park

March 28, 2019

DEATH VALLEY, Calif – A man died on Saturday, March 23 while canyoneering in Death Valley National Park. Matthew Yaussi (age 41 of Glendale) was rappelling down a 380-foot cliff when he fell to his death. Canyoneering is an activity that combines hiking, down-climbing, and rappelling down canyons. Canyoneering has been increasing in popularity in Death Valley, and there are now about 200 documented routes.

Yaussi and his companion had hiked about 4,000 feet up a ridge before starting their descent of Bottomless Pit Canyon, the informal name of a canyon south of Titus Canyon in the Grapevine Mountains. According to an online description on, this canyoneering route involves 19 rappels down cliffs or dry waterfalls. Bottomless Pit was first descended in 2012, and it is not a commonly done route.

The two canyoneers planned to break the 380-foot rappel into stages by setting up an anchor on a ledge partway down. Yaussi’s companion had already rappelled to the ground when Yaussi fell to his death at approximately 8:30 p.m. His companion activated an emergency locator beacon and was extracted later that night by the U.S. Navy’s VX-31 helicopter, based in China Lake.

Yaussi’s body was recovered the next day by an Inyo County Sheriff’s Deputy and California Highway Patrol’s H-80 helicopter.

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