Category Archives: Accidents

Canyoneer Falls 150 Feet in Branch of Oak Creek Canyon

I hope Mr. McEntire emerges healthy and whole. 150 feet seems like an incredibly long way to fall, but a couple accidents over the past few years (a 100-foot free-fall in Pine Creek, a long “free-slide”in Englestead) have shown people can survive and even thrive after such dramatic incidents. Sliding (incredibly quickly) down a rope must be better than a free-fall, and sometimes a big, fat backpack can do incredible magic in softening a fall. Best wishes to Mike in his recovery. ***** Rescuers rappel eight times and swim three crossings to reach fallen canyoneer All 2400-feet of rappelling rope in service for high-profile rescue near Sedona, AZ Rescuers had to rappel eight times and swim three crossings to reach a fallen canyoneer in the West Fork area of Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, AZ. The Canyoneer was critically injured after falling 450 feet while rappelling on the afternoon of Saturday August 13, 2011. Although Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received a report of the critically injured fall victim that afternoon, the remote and rugged canyon held onto its victim until the next day. It took over 36 hours for Coconino County Search and Rescue personnel — assisted by several other … Continue reading

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L.A. Times Opines on the Dangers of the Outdoors

Long-time ZAC client, Jerry King, sent me this article concerning the high rate of fatal accidents in Yosemite this year. Zion has seen its share of tragedies over the years, and this discussion of signage, prevention, and “what more could be done” to avoid more accidents often comes up. I think this editorial does a great job of capturing the heart of the matter in succinct terms: I have often wondered why Zion National Park closed the Lady Mountain route due to safety concerns (not sure this is the entire reason?), but the Angels Landing route remains open despite many deaths over the years. In general, the Park System seems to hold firm to a certain standard of prevention, erecting signage barricades, etc. in the most crowded and popular areas to help folks stay clear of danger, but not building extravagant structures to make it impossible for visitors to access danger. I have never seen a ranger ticket those who climb over rails, etc… I wonder if that happens? If folks knew they might get a $250 ticket for dangling their feet over the cliffs, maybe they’d think twice? But taking too much responsibility for monitoring simply opens the Park’s … Continue reading

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Zion SAR Executes Five Rescues in Three Days

Taken from the NPS Morning Report webpage. This is great reading for canyoneers and climbers who want to learn vicariously from others, so as to avoid similar fates. Thanks to all the folks on Zion’s SAR team for being there when we need you, regardless of how we manage to find ourselves there. ***** Rangers Conduct Multiple Technical Rescues By Andrew Fitzgerald and Ray O’Neil, Park Rangers July 26, 2011 The park’s search and rescue team conducted four canyoneering rescues in three days, then took on a big wall rescue of two injured climbers: July 16th – On the morning of July 16th, a 20-year-old man suffered a lower leg fracture after a short fall while descending into Mystery Canyon. When the injury occurred, he was over a quarter mile and 400 vertical feet below the canyon rim in a steep, heavily-vegetated gully. When rangers arrived on scene, he told them he’d be willing to assist with his evacuation, but that he could not bear any weight on the injured leg. Over the next six hours, he laboriously worked his way to the canyon rim with rangers’ assistance while the park’s contract helicopter staged at a nearby landing zone. His … Continue reading

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Three Canyoneers Drowned in French Alps

An overflowing retention basin caused a large wave of water to roll through Pussy Canyon, overtaking four canyoneers on a guided trip. Though one canyoneer was lucky (or skilled) enough to be swept up into an eddy and rescued by a local fisherman, the other three canyoneers, including a 50-year-old local guide, were less fortunate and found drowned early the next morning further down-canyon. Any canyoneering death is tragic, but what makes this event notable is it seems to have been a “man-made” event. The report doesn’t mention and sort of storm or rain, implying the retention basin failed due to some sort of human or technology error. Imagine descending a canyon on a bluebird day, with not a cloud in sight, and suddenly hearing water roaring toward you from upcanyon. Yikes. Scary. Here’s a link to the story in Savoie.

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Hiker Rescued from Hidden Canyon

Zion National Park (UT) Hiker Rescued From Hidden Canyon On June 8th, a 30-year-old visitor from the Netherlands fell approximately 10 feet onto his head while down-climbing a slick rock section along the Hidden Canyon route. A visitor who was in the vicinity of the fall ran out to the entrance of the canyon and located another visitor at with cell service to report the incident. A technical rescue operation began that involved 27 park staff. Responders carried the man over difficult terrain out to the mouth of the canyon in a litter. Once carried out of the steep-walled, narrow section of the route, Grand Canyon’s helicopter and flight crew were able to short-haul him from a high ridge to a waiting NPS ambulance. [Submitted by Brandon Torres, Canyon District Ranger]  

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Two Angels Landing Rescues in One Day

From the NPS Morning Report: Zion National Park (UT) Two Rescued From Angels Landing In Separate Incidents On Saturday, May 21st, a 24-year-old hiker from Norway sustained a lower leg fracture near the summit of Angels Landing when he jumped approximately five feet off a small, isolated pinnacle atop the route. Grand Canyon’s helicopter and flight crew were summoned and short-hauled the man off the peak. While waiting for the helicopter, rangers prepared for a lengthy technical lowering operation down the 1500-foot-high north face of the mountain should weather or other factors preclude a short-haul evacuation. While doing so, rangers learned that a 62-year-old male from St. George had collapsed from severe chest pain approximately half way up the Angels Landing trail and responded. He was quickly treated and evacuated via wheeled litter, then flown to a hospital via commercial air ambulance, surviving what was described by hospital staff as a massive heart attack. The hiker from Norway was successfully short-hauled off the summit to a waiting NPS ambulance crew. [Submitted by Brandon Torres, Canyon District Ranger]

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Video: Subway Hikers Rescue Three Overdue Hikers

In a collection of close events, adverse high-water conditions in The Subway caused three separate canyoneering parties to spend unplanned evenings in the canyon two weeks ago. Two of these parties, a couple who had spent 3 nights out and a single man who spent one night, were helped out of the canyon by a party hikers who have been generous in sharing their experience with the larger community. Below is a video account, in two parts, of the group’s experience in Subway on April 19th. Thanks to Anthony Dunster for recording and editing the team’s adventure.

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Two More “Overdue” Subway Hikers Emerge

Two more overdue hikers, Matthew Files, 35, and Nate Simon, 22, both from Massachuetts, found their way out of The Subway area yesterday morning after spending an unplanned stay overnight. From this report from Fox Channel 13, it’s unclear exactly where they were or how they got there. Evidently, they were separated from their party, but details are murky. I like how the reported spins it as an “unplanned overnight adventure” rather than something like a “near-death experience”.   All this overdue hiker business is causing a stir, and the St. George Spectrum called us yesterday to discuss the route and conditions. Our resident Outfitting Diva, Shelley Buckingham, offered reporter, Scott Kerbs, some thoughts on Subway planning and preparation for spring conditions in general.

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Recent Subway Trouble Highlights Dangerous Spring Conditions

While there are LOTS of fantastic ways to enjoy Zion right now, hiking The Subway is not one of them. Due to dangerous high water conditions and a flurry of “lost hiker” reports in the last two weeks, the Park Service has closed The Subway until further notice. While nobody has been seriously injured or harmed, this story from KSL Salt Lake City features video from the crew that helped out hikers who spent four days stranded in the Subway last week. While The Subway has a reputation as a moderate, beautiful hike which is appropriate for families and kids, risks involved in The Subway are VERY contextual. In mid-June, when rain is rare, temperatures high, and days long, The Subway can be exceptionally hospitable. Even then, however, you still need to have proper equipment and knowledge to manage short rappels, downclimbs, and cold water. During periods of heavy rain or snow melt, however, The Subway quickly becomes an intimidating and life-threatening place. Though some canyoneers do have proper equipment, experience, and training to descend The Subway in high-water conditions, most use good judgment by going elsewhere to better conditions, and returning on a better day or season.

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Spring Canyoneering Surprises the Ill-Prepared

Noticed this great trip report from SportsLover, a local St. George-based blogger who ventured out to descend Water Canyon last week. Though these guys fortunately came out of their predicament unscathed, the hypothermic challenge they created for themselves was significant. While two well-trained, large men with a good sense of humor and adventure evidently dealt with the cold challenge well here, the same set of circumstances could lead to an emergency, or even a fatality, for a different team. Not only does cold challenge lead to hypothermia, but also hypothermic symptoms like slower movement, loss of coordination, and, most importantly, impaired cognition. These symptoms easily lead to accidents, compounding the trouble in such situations. As you can see in the pictures, there can be a lot of ice and snow melting out in Zion’s canyons this time of year, which means ice-cold running water, dousing waterfalls, deep pools covered with thin ice, and even hiking in deep snow. When it’s 65 and sunny in town, it doesn’t mean the canyons are hospitable to those in sandals and t-shirts. At Zion Adventure Company, we love spring canyoneering, but we make sure to choose warmer venues OR warmer equipment to make sure … Continue reading

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