Category Archives: Safety

Imlay Canyon Trip Report, 9.2.2012

Went through Full Imlay Canyon with Steve Brezovec and Kelly Birdwell – to enjoy the canyon, of course, and to work on the anchors. Found some interesting things. We started the canyon from Potato Hollow, from the very tip-top there, a few hundred yards higher than I had before. We used a retrievable anchor off a tree in order to not leave a sling visible to the public. Downcanyon a ways, we found a tied off rock for the third stage of a rappel that can be done as a three-stage rap. This rock as cleverly wedged in a slot, but was tied off with some cord which was quite pretty, but had a core of paper (indicating that this cord was never intended for any purpose requiring strength). Further down, we found an anchor tied with a non-knot (versus a Water Knot)… but I guess it held for whomever tied it. Quite a few anchors in the canyon were tied with the Minnesota-clip style of equalization – especially scary since on a lot of these two-bolt anchors, one bolt is an ancient eroded stud-type bolt (very unreliable). We re-rigged 4 or 5 anchors usually with fresh webbing. The upper … Continue reading

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Virgin River Flash Flood Video

Mike and Seth caught some revealing footage of the Virgin River in scary flash flood mode as it carried a huge cottonwood tree down-river like an insignificant Poohstick. See how dark the water is? The color comes from the high load of silt, mud, and rock the river picks up in a flood event. 95% of the erosion in Zion happens in punctuated events like this, where sudden, heavy rains create high-volume, high-velocity river conditions that pick up tons and tons of sediment and move it downstream. Once the momentum gets going, all that debris can scour banks and displace large areas of sediment, replacing ankle-deep shallows with deep pools, and vice-versa. It’s super fun to explore the river after a flood event like this and try to find the best “new” swimming holes the flood has created. The guys filmed this footagee just above the Springdale River Park, where we pick up tubers at the end of their runs. Seems like tubing would be a little extreme with that amount of water and debris in the river, don’t you think? If you want to see a flash flood, I highly recommend a viewing it from a safe place like this, … Continue reading

Posted in Natural History, Safety, Seasonal, Springdale, Summer, The Narrows, Tubing, Weather & Climate, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Landslide Closes Hidden Canyon Trail

A teenager recently asked me, “Do big rocks fall ever fall down here?” Looking around most anyplace in Zion, and you can see that MANY big rocks have fallen from the canyon walls over time. Because we seldom see rockfall, however, it’s easy to forget where all the boulders on the ground came from. When the Hidden Canyon slide happened last week, it was a great reminder that geology happens all the time… even on actively used trails, in the middle of the day. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. Thanks to Zion’s rangers for helping the stranded hikers out, and for the inevitable work that will need to be done to restore the Hidden Canyon Trail. Until then… it’s a good thing there are lots of other 5-star trail to hike around here. Here’s the news release from the Park Service: Zion National Park Superintendent Jock Whitworth announced today that the Hidden Canyon Trail is currently closed due to a rockslide that occurred on Wednesday evening, July 25 at 5:30 p.m. The rockslide covered a narrow section of the trail with debris trapping 11 park visitors behind it for approximately three hours. Once the debris movement settled down, park rangers set … Continue reading

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Spry Canyon Flash Flood Video, July 11, 2012

Flash flood videos can’t do justice to the real thing, but this video from Spry Canyon last Monday (7/11) offers an educative perspective. The narrators’ emotions perhaps say more about the danger than the actual video… these two guys are clearly scared, excited, and riveted by the crashing, dynamic conditions. They literally have no idea what might happen, how high the water might rise, what debris might come crashing down to them. A scary situation. Were these guys in danger? It’s really difficult to say. Obviously, the water came up quite a bit while they were there, and they seem trapped in the alcove they are in by the middle of the video. But they seem to feel safe in their perch, amazed and lucky they weren’t stuck in a worse position in the canyon. As they point out, their next anchor is 1-2 feet under water by mid-video, and even as the waterfall slows toward the end, they point out how the overall depth just keeps rising. The parting shot shows the red webbing anchor filled with debris, hinting at the surge that receded only minutes before. The weather forecast on this date was not obvious: 40% chance of … Continue reading

Posted in Accidents, Canyoneering, Flash Flooding, Outdoor Leadership, Safety, Summer, Trip Reports, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Quicksand!

Yesterday while descending Water Canyon with a small CAD I learned a little something about quicksand. Over the past several years I have experienced quicksand, quickmud, and various other mires, but NOTHING like what I experienced in Water Canyon on 4/18. After descending into Middle Water Canyon, we got past the first three raps and started heading down the long hallway into Lower Water Canyon. About half way through this section, we experienced a couple of sloppy, sucking sand areas, but nothing above the knees, which made extraction casual. Moments later, however, I stepped off of a rock in the middle of the watercourse and INSTANTLY sank to my crotch into thin, watery sand. It was somewhat entertaining initially, and I took 10 seconds or so to have the moment captured photographically for all to see. Within those 10 seconds, the sand solidified around my legs and developed the consistency of concrete. I was unable to move any muscle below my waist, so I started digging and scooping water and sand to attempt to free myself from the sucky obstacle. After 10 minutes of digging, damming up the flow to better remove sand and water from the area, and attempting … Continue reading

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BYU Offers Canyon Gear Prizes for Accident Info

Dr. Steve Kugath, a professor in the Outdoor Recreation Department at BYU-Idaho, recently announced a “accident info for gear” opportunity worth checking out. I haven’t heard about this project before, but ostensibly it will help gather and aggregate information about who, how, when, why canyoneers get into trouble out there. For each entry you submit (one entry per accident/incident), you are thrown into the hopper for a chance to win one of the prizes (see below). The survey says it takes 15-20 minutes to fill out, but a thorough job would probably take more like 30 – 60 minutes. Not sure how they will prevent folks from entering sparse submission just to rack up their odds of winning prizes, but hopefully the spirit of the effort will prevail and they’ll get lots of good data. Here’s Steve’s announcement: Hey Canyoneers! We’re developing a Canyoneering Accident/Near Miss/Epic Database. Information collected will be made available to the public for free. Our goal of the project is to educate and encourage safe canyoneering practice. The data base will include synopses and analysis of accidents/near misses/epics; group member’s names will not be included so don’t be shy about reporting your mishaps. In addition all the reports will … Continue reading

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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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Tie Knots In Your Rappel Ropes to Avoid Disaster

Whilst descending the North Guardian Angel Saturday evening, Calvin and I found our 100′ rope just a bit short to reach the most comfortable landings along the way. It wasn’t much of a problem, but highlighted the importance of tying knots in the ends of our rappel lines. Even when the terrain is not vertical, sliding off the end of your rappel ropes can be extremely dangerous, often fatal. In many places on the North Guardian, an unprotected slip could lead to 50 to 500-foot tumble… not good for your health. On the last of three rappels, we staged this shot as a grand coupling of beautiful landscape and tragic technical foolishness. Can you imagine seeing this scene in real life? Watching someone rapidly descending a 50-degree slope with only 18 inches of line left? I would probably crap my pants. So while we took the picture in jest, I wanted to share it to highlight the serious message underlying it. ALWAYS tie knots in the ends of your rappel lines, or at the very least, make a very conscience and aware decision not to.

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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

Posted in Accidents, Hiking, In the News, Outdoor Leadership, Safety, Summer, Weather & Climate | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wilderness First Responder Courses This November

This November, we are offering a full 5-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course (11/5 – 11/9, $750) and a WFR Recert course (11/7 – 11/9, $425). Most outdoor professionals and many outdoor enthusiasts already know all about WFR, but for those new to WFR, I thought answer a few common questions: What is WFR? Wikipedia explains it better than I could: “Wilderness First Responder training focus on teaching the students to assess a situation, improvise solutions using available resources to stabilize the patient, and identify the best way to get the patient to definitive medical treatment. In many courses, students are encouraged to develop the habit of systematically thinking through and documenting their assessment decisions/plans using a SOAP note. Topics covered usually include, but are not limited to, the following principles Basic Life Support Responding to results of trauma: burns, wounds, infections, fractures, spinal injuries Responding to the onset of sudden illness Transport/evacuation planning and implementation” Who is WFR for? WFR courses have become a defacto training job requirement for anyone working in the outdoor industry. Many non-professional outdoor enthusiasts, however, also take WFR courses to stay safe and able in remote environments. Whether you’re a backpacker 20 miles away from a … Continue reading

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