Video: Mountain Biker Rescued After Dangling Headfirst Off a Cliff

Apr 19, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  

A mountain biker has been rescued following a fall that left him dangling hundreds of feet above the canyon floor on Mt. Wilson, California, last Thursday.

The unnamed rider fell around 40 feet from the trail and found himself hanging from the rock wall on his stomach with his head facing down. Two onlookers, including the rider's brother, were quickly on the scene and were able to lasso his ankle to hold him secure in that position until emergency services could be contacted. Thankfully, the fall happened on the south side of the mountain, facing the city of Los Angeles, where the phone signal is much better so rescue teams could be contacted immediately.

That wasn't the end of the event though, as when the rescue crew from the Los Angeles Sheriff Department's Special Enforcement Bureau (composed of former SWAT team officers with paramedic training) arrived they were worried the downwash from the helicopter would unseat the rider from his precarious position. The team described the rider as hanging on "like a cat" and explained that he was too scared to even rotate his head to look at them.


The L.A Times describes how Daniel Aleman, one of the rescuers, was dropped off further down the trail then used both of the other mountain bikers to be his anchor for a rappel point. He asked them both to sit down and then tied a rope to them so he could reach the stranded rider and secure him to be airlifted to safety. Aleman found the man shaken but conscious. He later told reporters, "Thank God, he was OK. That made me feel better. He was just stuck — in a bad spot.”

Capt. Tom Giandomenico, later praised Aleman's quick thinking and courage. He said, "that’s one of the more significant, courageous maneuvers I’ve seen. Heroic, in my opinion.”

The rider's bike was later recovered from the bottom of the canyon. No serious injuries were reported from the incident.


124 Comments

  • 593 1
 Article clearly not written by a mountain biker, leaving the most important question for the end "is his bike okay?"
  • 100 0
 Yeah, I don't see the big deal here. At worst he would have pulled a Rogatkin by falling off a cliff, getting up and finishing the rest of his ride.
  • 91 1
 "The rider's bike was later recovered from the bottom of the canyon. No serious injuries were reported from the incident." I'm pretty sure this means the bike was fine.
  • 30 1
 A key word was missing - "The riders bike was recovered from the bottom of the canyon - range" - it was a grand canyon 5 so they threw it back
  • 18 27
flag justwaki (Apr 19, 2021 at 5:54) (Below Threshold)
 @scott-townes: That was my first thought:John! Rogatkin made it off a worse falll! John! Can you hear me? It is ok to let go now!
  • 12 0
 I want to see pictures of the bike :-)
  • 34 2
 The basket looked intact. Not sure if the motor was still functional.
  • 8 0
 @rider001: Motor's under warranty. "I was just riding down the trail and the motor and the paint blew up and I set the bike down, therefore the scratches".
  • 3 0
 Before the rescue unit had anyone on the trail, they video'ed the scene, and I counted three people, including the victim, and 3 bikes. So, apparently, he got off his bike and fell, without his bike, off that cliff. The bike was never in danger. Thank god!
  • 8 0
 Haha right!? Or was he on flats or clipless?
  • 36 0
 Also no mention of wheel size. WTF? I need to know if my wheels are going to cause me to fall off a cliff or not. And would that be considered 'playful'?
  • 2 0
 That was the first question that entered my mind when I finished reading the article!!
  • 3 0
 I'm sure the bike will be stripped down and parts will be sold on PinkBike and Craigslist the next day.
  • 2 0
 @number44: Wait, what about the width of those handlebars? They might be too wide for that trail Big Grin
  • 1 0
 My one and only thought about this whole “tough spot” situation was where is the bike and is it ok!?
  • 1 0
 @scott-townes: This is all I could think about while watching this video lol
  • 2 0
 I literally scrolled down just to make sure the first comment was "is the bike okay".
  • 1 0
 Before he dropped in he said “hold my beer this is going to be cool”
  • 164 1
 Just diving headfirst into the comments
  • 56 0
 Getting involved in these discussions is a slippery slope.
  • 33 0
 Canyon not see this a deeply insensitive comment?
  • 14 0
 Come on Cliff....
  • 4 0
 I had a long way to scroll before I got to the puns.
  • 4 1
 Diving in head first for a taste of Clif shot blok
  • 3 0
 @CSharp: at least you tried!
  • 3 1
 Catch me cliff you can!
  • 1 0
 Cliff Burton
  • 2 0
 Cliff Huckstable
  • 71 0
 By my calculations he must be about 10 feet tall in Freedom units if he fell 40 feet. Either way, glad to hear he is safe. Giants do fall hard.
  • 20 3
 Ooooh, freedom units- must be like Calvinball. THE BEST
  • 1 0
 So glad somebody finally mentioned Freedom units. Just sayin'.
  • 49 0
 Anyone wonder how he had the energy to hold on for that long? He fueled up with a Clif bar.
  • 45 2
 And that is why I do not like exposed trails.
  • 25 1
 But this happened in Angeles Forest. There were at least six trees there.
  • 6 1
 Ha, I grew up riding this trail. Its not just exposed, its tacky for 5 min after a rainstorm then its just loose sand the rest of the year haha
  • 10 7
 Exposed yes, narrow no. And it looks like he fell to the inside of the turn? Glad he's ok but he might want to take a skills clinic
  • 1 0
 @rrolly: The upper sections of the trails are high enough elevation to have real trees. Lower sections not so much.
  • 35 0
 My question is....

Who here carries ROPE while mountain biking??
  • 31 0
 ....and is trained in the Ankle-Lasso knot?
  • 5 0
 Charlie Bronson's always got a rope. He's always got a lot of rope around him in the movies and they always end up using it
  • 3 0
 They made fashioned a rope using the bar end streamers from their bikes
  • 1 0
 I was thinking you could maybe use shifter/dropper cable, but then again he might not have a foot left by the time you pull him up.
  • 32 0
 Needs to settle down on chasing that KOM
  • 32 0
 When the Strava line doesn't pay off
  • 10 6
 He bypassed the KOM, heading straight for a Darwin award.
  • 24 0
 When in doubt starfish it out
  • 18 1
 reminds me of a little crash I had where I ended up on my back, head facing down a steep incline, pressure suite an neck brace. some walkers where like "are you ok?"
I replied "I can't get up"
They panicked "DON'T MOVE, DON'T MOVE, We'll Get Some Help, We'll Phone The Police!!!!!"
I replied "nah I'm OK, I just can't get up" as I'm wiggling my arms an legs about doing the dying fly trying to get up off my back! :'D
  • 4 0
 Had the same thing, on my back inverted, my pack was caught on something so I couldn't roll to the side. The 2 bikers I just passed before the crash found me and panicked when they asked if Iturtles. It took some convincing to get them just to extend a hand. Chose your words wisely when you are turtled.
  • 1 0
 Not a nice situation in deep and steep powder, no leverage to stand up you just keep sliding down and sluff keeps burying you.
  • 21 1
 It doesn't even look steep. Go pro effect can be annoying.
  • 16 0
 Definitely riding a Canyon!!! Heal up soon
  • 8 0
 If thats what this guy can accomplish on a Canyon bike, imagine what he might have in store for us on a ClifCat.
  • 18 2
 ''Covid new rider''
  • 13 0
 but how was his bike?
  • 12 0
 That's the last time he tries a semi-slick rear tyre
  • 8 0
 In the interest of not setting up some karmic fail for me in future rides with serious exposure, I will say nothing else except...knock on wood.
  • 6 0
 The exposure on the Mt. Wilson downhill is bad. Super narrow loose trails with long near vertical drops. While not technically hard, the penalty for a miss is high. Downieville on Third Divide is comparatively wide and the drops off to the side smaller (but hard, sharp rock).
  • 2 0
 Looks like he was on the Toll Road which is wider, but still has the drops.
  • 14 6
 Being in the USA, would that rescue cost him a lot of money?
  • 13 0
 It depends on the local government. Some places are starting to charge for rescues because of too many people doing stupid things and using the rescues to get out of trouble that they could get out of if more prepared. Many are free. If your house burns down, you don't get charged for the fire crew.
  • 28 1
 Common misconception of the american health care system is that everything costs money. A search and rescue like this would not cost the victim anything. Although if they can prove you were being negligent and intentionally are putting individuals lives in danger, then they will for sure charge you every cent it took to rescue you. If you're in a car wreck, an ambulance can come out to you and the paramedics can perform medical services for you, but as long as you don't ride in the ambulance back to the hospital, it's free.
  • 3 0
 @Sscottt: Yep, also the free SAR are often partly funded by donations, and people who are rescued are often encouraged to donate in gratitude, or guilt tripped. Also, not all fire fighting is free. If a farmer or land owner does a controlled burn on a day that it's not allowed (due to high wind, it's called a red flag warning around here) and it gets out of control and requires fire fighters. Then, that land owner has to pay for the fire fighters. They also have to pay to replace any houses/barns of neighbors that were burned.
  • 2 1
 If I'm not mistaken, that's right next to the road at the top so they wouldn't have had to walk terribly far. That assumes distance hiked in is correlated with cost. It looks like a nice ski drop in, but there's never any snow.
  • 8 8
 I’ll also add that over 90% of Americans have health insurance (employer, Medicaid or Medicare) which guarantees a minimum amount of coverage. While search and rescue can be highly dependent on the situation, once in the ambulance, they might be stuck dealing with a shitty deductible but out of pocket max is unlikely to exceed $8k. For mountain bikers who opt not to have insurance...they are just making a dumb life decision.
  • 6 1
 In Utah you can buy a policy form the state for 40$ annually that will cover like $50,000 on a search and rescue. They started charging for most rescues here because people are stupid and put themselves in ridiculous situations. Happens more and more as the population booms. Utah sucks now.
  • 3 3
 I really don't know, but I've always been told search and rescue from helicopter is in the tens of thousands. At the ski hill that occasionally pays me to do stuff, they tell me getting rescue from the out of bounds run is mucho bucks. So, I disagree with these other posters. But like they said, depends on state, county, etc. I call it personal responsibility reinforcement.
  • 6 1
 Charging for SAR can be a bad idea. There’s been a number of incidents where people attempt self-rescue to avoid costs end up in an even worse position and still need rescue or they end up dead.
  • 3 9
flag nvranka (Apr 19, 2021 at 8:14) (Below Threshold)
 @rossluzz: that is much more rare than retards calling for a heli when they’re overheated at a local land locked trail system surrounded by suburban neighborhoods.
  • 3 5
 @bigdubski: Helicopter ride is about $50,000. They will charge you. A friend had to pay.
  • 5 1
 No. I used to do SAR. A rescue almost never costs money. The exception would be if the person is gravely wounded and a med-evac team needs to be called in to fly straight to a hospital. Then the Med-evac company will charge appropriate costs, but SAR units work with Sheriff's department, Civil Air Patrol, USAF, and the US National Guard for flights. Sheriff's dept assists out of duty and is publicly funded, the other three are happy to assist as it's training hours for the pilots.
  • 3 2
 @mexicant: Not if it's the good ol California Highway Patrol's helicopter. CHP chopper flights to hospitals are free. Just depends who gets the call. That is the problem with for-profit medical care and don't get me started on for-profit prisons.....
  • 1 0
 It can also depend on where you are. In many national parks SAR is free IF you stay in marked trails. If you are off trail where you should not be then you can be billed. In this area there is also a SAR that usually responds. They are all volunteer and work with local authorities with helicopters.
  • 3 2
 @nvranka: mods please remove this comment. Thanks in advance.
  • 2 2
 @nvranka: I’m sure you didn’t intentionally mean to slander folks with intellectual disabilities but that slang needs to be dropped from popular culture.
  • 1 0
 Rescue is free, ambulance ride and hospital care cost money
  • 2 1
 @OldDert: that’s retarded!
  • 1 0
 @OldDert: @OldDert: Popular culture tell you, you don't tell it. Got it? ;P
  • 8 0
 Cant wait for the Friday Fails video...
  • 6 0
 He must have heard there was beer at the bottom!
  • 9 0
 Seems he saw the label on the way down and changed his mind.
  • 3 0
 Just rode this for my first time last month. As a utter newb, I walked a good portion as I still have a hard time steering, but even so, I have no idea how he fell at this spot.
  • 5 0
 Glad he's safe. Stay safe and have fun everyone !
  • 4 0
 Great job to the rescuers and being able to pull him back!
  • 1 0
 This happened to my friend in the same place a week ago. We were riding the Wilson trail and he washed out on a loose corner and just disappeared off the side. He is alright and got back to the trail, but lost his bike.
  • 1 0
 Covaids has everyone in fear response mode......time for people to get their shots so they can get comfortable again, stay upright on their bikes and deal with themselves when they crash Cm!
  • 3 0
 Just change the underwear and life goes on.
  • 3 0
 As gnarly as that is, can someone tell me wth a "tactical medic" is?
  • 8 0
 Going to assume a more badass sounding name for a search and rescue technician. Of course a SARTECH is one of the most badass jobs on the planet, but I supposed having "technician" in the title doesn't sound nearly as cool as having "tactical" in it.
  • 34 0
 Medic that can shoot someone if needed, causing himself more work. It's the perfect OT hussle.
  • 17 0
 Tactical Assault Medic: A medic who rappels from the chopper, karate chops all the bad guys, then rescues the guy and treats his injuries.
  • 2 0
 @Peally: Literally LOL'd at this. Congrats.
  • 8 0
 In the LA County Sheriff's Dept., the SAR team that rescued this guy is comprised of former SWAT officers who are then trained to be paramedics. The deputy who rappelled down was a SWAT officer for 20 years before joining the SAR team. Pretty interesting combination of skills and training.
  • 3 0
 I blame Strava. Looks like he cut that turn.
  • 1 0
 I've washed my front wheel off the edge of a big cliff at mt. wilson and belly flopped chest first to avoid going off the edge. It's scarier than it looks there
  • 1 0
 Looks like you can Just use ur hand as a anchor to slide down feet first into the rocks down below. It doesn’t look too bad
  • 1 0
 That's one of my local spots. There are some steep cliffs there. Looks like he crashed going straight? Or slipped while taking a piss?
  • 2 0
 What was the damage to the bike?
  • 2 0
 I hope his bike is still ok, lets pray
  • 2 0
 Brandon Semenuk- toss me my bike, I'll caveman off of it.
  • 2 0
 Takig frenchlines to serious
  • 1 0
 WHAT?? Biker? Looks like office Joe on the lunch brake...OR This is new TLD combo...Wink
  • 2 0
 Should of had a Redbull, then he could of just flown down to safety...
  • 1 0
 I’m willing to bet he couldn’t unclip, lost his balance, and down he went.
  • 1 0
 Should I be worried that the first thing I thought was, "trail should be fun if it's that dangerous"...?
  • 1 0
 I bet he was glad he was wearing a helmet
  • 1 1
 Someone was coming the other direction and he was too ashamed to show he's still on a lefty...
  • 1 1
 Why would anyone be ashamed to ride a lefty?
  • 1 0
 Campgrounds are scarce for bike packing in the Angeles Forest.
  • 1 0
 “Hanging on by a shoelace”
  • 1 0
 Wonder if his bike is still covered under warranty after that
  • 1 0
 Good thing he didn't have a Marzocchi Drop Off.
  • 1 0
 I bet he’s wishing he fell after the medical bills
  • 1 0
 Soooo
He was on a Canyon
In a Canyon
on a cliff
Feelin stiff? : PSmile
  • 1 0
 How many water bottle mounts?
  • 1 0
 Friday Fail or Send it Saturday?
  • 1 0
 I bet his Boxxers need a service after that
  • 1 0
 This definitely doesn't look like 40 feet! I hope the rider is ok.
  • 1 0
 Almost a rowdy descent
  • 9 11
 Prob was riding an E Bike.
  • 4 3
 Nope, lite MTB and baby-head sized rocks = over the edge he went:/
eMTB with weight just mashes thru the baby-head sized rocksSmile
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