Category Archives: In the News

Zion Narrows Hike Limit Raised to 150 CFS

Shelley called the Park this morning and confirmed a rumor that the Bottom-Up Hiking limit for the Zion Narrows has been raised to 150 CFS. Woohoo! That’s a big deal! But what does that mean, exactly? Until the early 2000s, The Narrows was ALWAYS open, making it a do-at-your-own-risk activity: You looked at the river, maybe you got some advice from the rangers, and then you decided to hike or not. About ten years ago, however, the Park’s lawyers decided the liability of this policy was too great, and ZNP should take measures to protect unwitting Narrows hikers. The Park implemented a system that uses Virgin River water volume (measured in cubic feet per second (CFS)) to determine whether the Zion Narrows is open to hiking or not. The Park set the Top-Down limit at 120 CFS, and the Bottom-Down limit at 140 CFS; if the current CFS is ABOVE the limit any time in the last 24 hours, the hikes are closed accordingly. The upside of this closure system is very few people enter The Narrows when it is unsafe. The downside, however, is The Narrows is closed at levels where athletic hikers could have a lot of fun enjoying … Continue reading

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Note to Self: Bungee Cords Do Occassionally Break

Despite being a vertical sports enthusiast, I have never been a fan of bungee jumping. Besides the fact a commercial bungee jump blows your whole emotional and financial wad in a matter of 10 seconds, I just can’t get comfortable with the idea that it’s safe. Using the same equipment, over and over again, amidst so many dynamic forces seems like an accident waiting to happen. But as any bungee professional will tell you, millions of people bungee around the world each year, and rarely does anything go awry. “Bungee cords NEVER break,” a guide told me once. “It’s like a climbing rope. There’s all this hoopla about breaking strengths and fall capacity, but do you ever hear of a rope breaking?” Well, I never have heard of a climbing or rappelling rope breaking, and this argument, along with the omnipresence of bungee facilities in tourist traps around the world, led me to finally bite the bullet and take on a bungee jump a few years ago. I told myself I wasn’t bungeeing for the thrill, but rather for the peace: I wanted to see how calm and still I could be while stepping off a 400-foot precipice. As it turned out, … Continue reading

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Grand Canyon Abruptly Reverses Plastic Bottle Ban

Interesting article from the New York Times concerning the ban on bottled water sales that was due to begin January 1st. The is the same technique Zion NP implemented a few years back, to much acclaim within and outside of the National Park Service, helping reduce the Park’s plastic bottle consumption by upwards of 60,000 bottles per year. It’ll be interesting to see how this one shakes out, especially given all the money and infrastructure is already in place to make sure visitors have plenty of “watering” opportunities around Grand Canyon. Parks Chief Blocked Plan for Grand Canyon Bottle Ban By FELICITY BARRINGER November 9th, 2011 New York Times Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation. Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani … Continue reading

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Rappelling Off the Washington Monument

Tom pointed me to this short photo blog on high-profile rappelling in our nation’s capital. After the recent East Coast earthquake, authorities have called in some lucky engineers to inspect the Washington Monument for damage. Evidently, these guys simply sling the top of the monument, hook up their ropes, and they’re good to go. And why not? That pyramid is a beautiful textbook horn, if ever I’ve seen one. The engineers inspecting the 555-foot monument are expected to spend about five days looking for cracks, chips, missing mortar, etc. in the marble facade. For those familiar with Zion, 555 feet is just a tad shorter than the big seasonal waterfall that exits Telephone Canyon at the Temple of Sinawava. (I only know that because Tom told me, and I’m sure HE knows that because he dreams about descending that drop. Or maybe he already has?) Click here for the original MSNBC photo blog.

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Zion NP Requests Your Comments on Kolob Terrace Road Work

The Kolob Terrace Road makes for a beautiful drive or bike ride, but it does have some really rough spots that are especially tough on the cycling crowd. I wonder if they’ll rebuild the road to withstand the heavy truck traffic that has been increasingly present due to private construction projects near Kolob Reservoir? If not, I imagine the road won’t last nearly as long as it has this last time around. Whatever happens, it’s great to see the KTR is up for renovation soon. Zion National Park News Release www.nps.gov/zion  For Immediate Release  Kezia Nielsen 435-772-0211  Marc Neidig 435-772-0164  September 16, 2011  Zion National Park Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Kolob Terrace Road Rehabilitation Project Zion National Park is seeking public comment on the National Park Service’s proposed plan to rehabilitate sections of the Kolob Terrace Road. An environmental assessment analyzing the impacts of the proposed road work has been completed and is available for public review and comment.  The proposed project would correct deficiencies in road conditions and related safety concerns. Deterioration in the current pavement has led to surface cracks, rutting, buckling, and unraveling of the pavement edge. Years of increased vehicle use, including heavy truck traffic from … Continue reading

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Man Paints His Own Name On Grand Canyon Formation

Hmmm… Comedy or tragedy? Perhaps both? It’s difficult to imagine thinking this way AND admitting it to another person. From the Arizona Daily… Canyon defacer leaves clue Wednesday, August 31, 2011 By Larry Hendricks  A Canadian man has been federally charged with spray painting a word on a geologic formation at Grand Canyon National Park: his own name. According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Flagstaff, visitors to the South Rim called park rangers Monday afternoon to report a person spray painting a word on Duck on a Rock between Grandview and Yaqui Points just off East Rim Drive. The responding ranger reported seeing the word “Luci” in bright red spray paint. The tour leader for National Geographic Tours pointed out a person who had been spray painting. The ranger made contact with the person identified by the tour leader. “I made contact with the man and asked him where he had been,” stated the officer in court documents. “He replied by pointing down at the rock where the red spray paint was visible.”  The man went on to say that he had thrown the spray paint can into the Canyon. The ranger stated that the man … Continue reading

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Lightning Fatality Urges Caution During Summer Storms

While I usually think of lightning incidents as more of an alpine danger occurring in the Sierra Nevada or Rocky Mountains, this is the second lightening fatality this summer in the Desert Southwest (the other was about a month ago at Grand Canyon). While approaching thunderstorms can be thrilling to watch, PLEASE watch them from a safe place. When “very safe” places like vehicles or buildings are unavailable, do your best to distance yourself from high points and trees. If you can, sit on something insulating, like a backpack, sleeping pad, or rope. Canyons are generally safe places in terms of lightning, as you are between two high points, whereas places like Angels Landing are very dangerous in a lightning storm. Look here for detailed information from USFS ranger Melanie Fullman on the science behind lightning and specific recommendations on how to be safe in a lightning storm. Lightning Causes One Fatality in Bryce Canyon National Park An international visitor was killed by lightning along the Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points in Bryce Canyon National Park on Thursday, August 18. The victim was identified as Volker Kunz, 51, from Hamm, Germany. At approximately 12:20 PM, Mr. Kunz and … Continue reading

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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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SAR Study and State of the Park Address, August 30th

The NPS has been hosting a university research team who has been studying backcountry SARs in Zion over the past 10 years. They are having a park-wide meeting (11 AM, August 30, Nature Center) to present the results of this study, which should prove to be very interesting. Additionally, they will discuss other Park issues, and Park Superintedent, Jock Whitworth, will give “State of the Park” address. You are invited. Show up a little early, as it will be busy. This is a good opportunity to meet with Park staff, including Jock Whitworth, and hear about how they operate our Park.

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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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