Man dies from fall during Death Valley National Park excursion

A Southern California man fell to his death while on a hike in Death Valley National Park on Saturday evening, March 23.

As stated in a Death Valley National Park news release, Matthew Yaussi, 41, of Glendale, was rappelling down a 380-foot cliff when he plunged to his death.

Death Valley National Park Management Assistant Abby Wines said both Yaussi and a companion were “canyoneering,” at approximately 8:30 p.m. when the man fell.

“Canyoneering is an activity that combines hiking, down-climbing, and rappelling down canyons,” Wines said. “Canyoneering has been increasing in popularity in Death Valley, and there are now about 200 documented routes.”

Wines also said that Yaussi and his companion had hiked roughly 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.

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

According to an online description on, the canyoneering route in Death Valley involves 19 rappel down cliffs or dry waterfalls.

“Bottomless Pit was first descended in 2012, and it is not a commonly done route,” Wines said. “Yaussi’s body was recovered the next day by an Inyo County Sheriff’s deputy and California Highway Patrol H-80 helicopter.

An image on Yaussi’s Facebook page shows the man standing precariously and triumphantly atop of a tall rock formation at an undisclosed location back in 2016.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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