Category Archives: Outdoor Leadership

Thought, interviews, and articles on leading adventures

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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Great Canyoneering Video from University of Utah

The University of Utah’s Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department recently produced this very polished video/advertisement for their weekend canyoneering course. Have you ever seen such a clean, engaging, educational canyoneering video? Great lighting, camera angles, storyline, and plenty of instructor and student interviews. And I like how they contrast the nice guy (Troy) and the tough guy (Jim) with each other. Nice to see higher education helping inexperienced adventurers enjoy Utah’s natural treasures.

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Make Your Englestead Canyon Approach Low-Impact

There has been some confusion about the “best” approach to Englestead Canyon over the last few years, which has led to a good deal of “approach prospecting” by various parties. The big drawback to these explorations is the creation of new trails, which are not only confusing, but worse, quite erosive to the steeper slopes they travel down. Over time, some of these slopes have become pretty badly ripped up, and they will take a good, long time to recover. Fortunately, there is a very low-impact, fairly casual approach to reach the head of Englestead Canyon… and it’s no secret! In Zion: Canyoneering, author Tom Jones lays out an approach that sticks to existing 4×4 roads and ATV trails: Driving: Englestead is approached using an old logging road off the North Fork Road. Drive north on the North Fork Road 5.4 miles to the entrance of the Zion Ponderosa Resort. Continue on the North Fork Road 2.8 miles to a small dirt road on the left (west), between two fenced ranches. Park here (2WD) or drive the small dirt road ¼ mile to a small parking area at the top of a hill. The road from this point is an … Continue reading

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Preparedness, Common Sense Save Lost Grand Canyon Hiker

Amidst the tragic stories of fatal outdoor accidents and trips gone bad, it’s always great to read a story of folks doing the right thing in a bad situation. This report from Grand Canyon reminds me how good preparation, communication, and calm common sense can keep you out of deep trouble and give the outside world a chance to help you out when you’re down. Thanks to Billy for keeping cool and teaching us all a good lesson. Grand Canyon National Park (AZ) Overdue Hiker Found On North Rim Late on the evening of Wednesday, June 15th, rangers received notification that 64-year old Billy Driscoll of Fredonia, Arizona, had not returned from a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. The reporting party, a friend of Driscoll’s, said that he had been expected back no later than Tuesday. Driscoll had provided his friends with a detailed itinerary of his planned hiking route, which helped the agencies focus their search on the Sowats Point/Fishtail Mesa/Indian Hollow area, about 30 miles northwest of the North Rim developed area. Driscoll had planned to enter the park at Indian Hollow, then find a route down to Hualapai Spring, cross to Kwagunt, and come back up … Continue reading

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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.

Posted in Accidents, Canyoneering, In the News, Outdoor Leadership, Seasonal, Spring, Trip Reports, Videos, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Accidents, Canyoneering, In the News, Outdoor Leadership, Seasons, Videos, Weather & Climate, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Is It Really A Leap of Faith?

Ran across this great photo from photographer eddie_tk on Flicker recently. There’s a spot in Zion like this, up in Cave Valley, where I like to jump across a similarly wide gap to a beautiful promontory, high above the world below. I really have to be ready for that leap, because the consequences of missing the leap are likelydeadly, or at least permanently debilitating. The leap requires a bit of a run, and definitely no slipping or hesitation. And then, to get back, you discover the far edge is actually a bit lower than the near edge, so it gets HARDER. Eek. Is it crazy to do stuff like this? To risk your life simply to be on a pillar with a slightly different view? Is it really risking your life, if you are confident you can do it? What is it that incredibly visceral urge that wants to make such a leap? Where does it come from? Why do I feel better after having done something like this? I love these questions. I have never gambler, in the Las Vegas sense, and I have always thought that sort of gambling is pretty ridiculous. But this urge, this need, this … Continue reading

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A Sweet Lesson in Outdoor Leadership

Calvin tipped me off on this video, a simple, pure, very visual example of leadership by example. I love finding stories of leadership in completely unexpected places, because it reveals the limited nature of my thinking, and opens my mind to the possibilities of greatness in any moment, anywhere. Enjoy!

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Short Interview with Steve Allen on Canyoneering and Aron Ralston

I recently posted about a piece High Country News did on Michael Kelsey, noting his infamy and influence in the canyoneering world. While Kelsey has his fans and critics, I have never heard a soul utter a negative word about Steve Allen, generally revered as one of the Great Ones in the sport. I’ve never met Allen, nor run across any interviews or commentaries from him, until this interview/opinion/promotional piece produced by Fox Searchlight, related to the “127 Hours” hoopla. It’s short, but I really enjoy Allen’s presence in the video; he is warm, personable, open, and humble, certainly the kind of guy I would enjoy visiting a canyon with. It’s interesting that Fox produced this piece as a promotional tool, because Allen really does a great job of reducing the “Hollywood” drama of the story and emphasizing the very human drama that anyone can relate to, the drama of being alone with one’s thoughts for a prolonged period of time. What sort of change would happen inside of you if you were not only alone with your thoughts for five days, but also facing mortality, interacting with silence, and connecting with raw nature? I imagine a giant Rolodex of … Continue reading

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Trip Report: Spearhead Canyon, Zion National Park

Spearhead Canyon, Zion National Park, Oct 14 and 15, 2010 Second descent (probable) by Steve Ramras, Jenny West, Pascal van Duin and Tom Jones Prior History Brian Cabe and I ascended Hook Canyon to the Majestic/Cathedral pass and summit plateau in October 2000, and descended the canyon the next day. We found no evidence of descents in the upper canyon, but the final chimney section (below The Spearhead) was bolted for descent. Steve Ramras and Steve Brezovec made an attempt a few years prior, but were defeated by the incredibly thick Manzanita thrash-fest on the summit plateau, and descended via Hook Canyon. In July 2009, after extensive fires burned off the Manzanita, Luke (Bluugnome) from Las Vegas and companion climbed the Behunin Ridge for an attempt on the canyon, but did not proceed past the summit plateau, exiting via Hook Canyon. Spearhead has substantial logistical difficulties. How do you get to the head? How much rope to carry? Where is there water? Because it is about a day and a half long, perhaps one should do it in high summer with the long days… then again, since it lacks significant water, maybe that is not such a good idea. We … Continue reading

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