A badly injured Palo Alto rock climber was plucked via helicopter from a craggy and nearly vertical spire in Yosemite National Park after he took a tumble during an outing Sunday, officials said.

The 26-year-old man was the lead climber in a two-person team ascending Higher Cathedral Spire when trouble struck shortly after 10 a.m. Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said he was about 15 feet above an anchoring spot when he fell, plummeting 30 feet before his fall was broken 400 feet up from the valley floor.

"He landed on a ledge, and was laying prone on the rocks," said Officer Andrea Brown, who was the flight medic on a California Highway Patrol helicopter summoned from Fresno. "He was not able to move because of the pain."

Brown said they used the helicopter to drop highly trained park rangers next to the injured man -- a daunting task that involved hovering with the chopper's blades whirling just "10 to 20 feet from the rock."

She said that in terms of difficulty, she would rate the operation a "7 or 8 out of 10."

"It would have been OK if the winds were calm, but the winds were a little silly," she said. "There are times like that when we've had to say they're going to have to do it the old-school way."

Brown said the CHP does extensive training with the park rangers for situations like this -- training that is inevitably used each year when people get into tough spots. She gave the rangers high praise.

"They are world-class rock climbers, but not only can they climb, they can start IVs and give medical aid while suspended on ropes," she said. "They're pretty studly."

Once on the side of the spire, the rangers decided it would not be ideal to lower the injured man to the ground via rope, and that he would have to be hauled up to the helicopter. He was put in a vacuum-sealing splint to prevent further motion, loaded on a litter and hoisted to the helicopter.

"Once we had him secure, I asked him 'Hey how are you doing?' and gave him a thumbs up," Brown said. "He gave me a thumbs-up back and said 'I'm good,' " Brown said. "I'm fairly certain they gave him something for the pain or he wouldn't have tolerated that at all."

He was flown to a medical facility in Modesto, where he remained in serious but stable condition Monday, Brown said.

Cobb said that Yosemite is a "mecca for climbing," with people coming from around the world to conquer the park's famous peaks. She said the Higher Cathedral Spire is a popular choice.

"It's a very well-known climb," Cobb said. "It's something that is typically done on weekends on a regular basis. These guys were not on something that is rarely climbed."

But she said rescues are not uncommon, and they usually see one or two climber deaths each year. Even so, rock scaling is not regulated by the park, with the onus for safety falling on the climber.

"Most people who come here know what they are doing," she said. "If not, you are not going to get very far up the wall."

It was the second accident this month involving a Palo Alto resident falling off a rock formation while on a popular outing. Carol Hyde, 53, was hiking April 2 at Devil's Bridge near Sedona, Ariz., when she slipped and fell about 75 feet. She died at Flagstaff Medical Center later that day.

Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.