Authorities in Yosemite National Park are still investigating the death of nationally known nature artist Stephen Lyman, hoping to pinpoint when he fell from a rocky cliff and died.
An autopsy, which is routine for deaths in the park, was performed this week, but the results won’t be available until next month.
“Basically, it appears he died in the fall,” said park spokesman Nikyra Calcagno.
Initial reports show Lyman, 38, suffered major injuries when he tumbled 30 to 50 feet off a rocky cliff while hiking alone in the park.
Investigators with rock climbing experience will return this weekend to where Lyman’s body was found. They want to try to locate exactly where he fell and recover any personal items that might have been left behind.
Lyman, who has a wife and two children, lived and worked out of his Sandpoint home. He often hiked in Yosemite to get inspiration for his wilderness paintings.
Lyman’s work, especially the way he captured light on canvass, made him one of the best-selling limited-edition print artists in the country.
Lyman was reported missing April 18, after he failed to appear for an interview in Sacramento, Calif. Searchers with dogs scoured the Cathedral Rocks area where Lyman’s vehicle was found.
But Lyman’s body wasn’t discovered until the evening of the 19th when two rock climbers, who were not with the search party, spotted him in a steep gully.
Calcagno said the Cathedral Rock area is popular with climbers and is not for amateurs.
“It doesn’t require ropes but it does require some technical knowledge of how to climb which he (Lyman) had and enjoyed doing,” she said. “He had a love for scrambling and getting into some more precipitous areas.”
A park ranger had reported hearing a yell for help Thursday morning in the general area where Lyman fell. But Calcagno said the ranger was unsure if it was actually a yell for help or a climber hollering “rope.”
Before dropping a rope down a rock face to repel, climbers typically yell “rope” to warn anyone who might be below.
“That can sound like a call for help,” Calcagno said.
Still, rangers searched the area to make sure no one was in trouble. They used a high-powered spotting scope to scan the rocks and yelled to see if anyone would respond.
Park officials said Lyman’s body was tucked out of sight in a gully, and it was by accident the two climbers found him.
A recovery team was flown by helicopter to the top of Cathedral Rock and had to repel down to Lyman’s body. They put him on a stretcher and lowered him another 500 feet to where a helicopter could lift him out.
“It wasn’t easy, it was a very technical recovery,” Calcagno said of the steep, rocky terrain.
The park has fielded hundreds of calls since Lyman’s death. More are calling this week to make arrangements to attend his memorial service Saturday at the Cathedral Rock picnic area.
There will also be a memorial service in Sandpoint for Lyman, possibly the first weekend in May. Family members are still making arrangements and searching for a location that will accommodate a large crowd.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: COMING SUNDAY The Spokesman-Review will reprint an April 14 profile of artist Stephen Lyman in the In-Life section.