A 35-year-old Carmel, Ind., man was listed in serious condition at Washoe Medical Center on Wednesday night after a Tuesday fall from a cliff at Horsetail Falls.
Patrick Mann fell seconds after his friend told him the granite was slippery.
Rescuers found Mann 100 feet down a steep slope unconscious with a deep cut on the back of his head.
Mann tumbled head-first off a cliff 200 yards west of Horsetail Falls on Tuesday afternoon.
He was airlifted to Washoe Medical Center more than seven hours after his fall.
"Somebody easily could have gotten killed in that situation," said EL Dorado County Sheriff's Detective Tim Mazzoni, a rescue coordinator at the scene. "I know where he fell. He was lucky."
Mann and his four friends had hiked the area before, but Tuesday they decided to take a short cut because it had begun to storm. By 5:30 p.m., two of his friends had hiked back to Twin Bridges and called 911. Volunteers from the Search and Rescue Team reached Mann, who was groggy and in shock, around 7 p.m.
"I had several Search and Rescue Team volunteers tell me the mission was the hardest they've ever done," Mazzoni said.
Because of lightning strikes and the smoky air created by forest fires in Nevada, no helicopters were available to pluck Mann out of the woods. Working in shifts, it took 25 rescuers five hours to get him out. They took turns pulling Mann's backboard on a rope over rocks and brush until they reached U.S. Highway 50 and the ambulance. Paramedics drove Mann up Echo Summit where the air was clear enough for a Careflight helicopter to land. Inside the ambulance, Mann was vomiting and moaning, Mazzoni said. He was flown to Washoe Medical Center.
Four of the men on the hike, including Mann, are from Indiana. The other man is a resident of Shingle Springs, Calif.