Injured Hiker Short-Hauled Out Of Subway Route

Two young men hiking the Subway in Zion National Park

The quintessential section of the Subway. Photo Credit: God of War, Wikipedia Commons

From the NPS Morning Report on 9/21/10:

On Saturday, September 19th, a 20-year-old hiker from Boise sustained an unstable ankle injury when she jumped eight to ten feet off an obstacle along the Subway Route. Ranger/medic Ray O’Neil and Dan Hovanec hiked in six miles, stabilized her injury, and spent the night with the injured hiker. Rangers Kelsey Taylor and Derrick Fassbender hiked in additional equipment and escorted the rest of the hiking group out in the dark that evening. On Sunday, Grand Canyon’s helicopter and flight crew short-hauled the woman out of the Subway Route to a waiting ambulance. In the area where the incident occurred, a bolted anchor is available to rappel or hand-line down. Despite discouraging the practice, jumping to negotiate obstacles continues to be a frequent cause of injury while canyoneering in Zion.

Contact Information
Name: Brandon Torres, Canyon District Ranger

I am absolutely certain the hiker in question here did not intend to interrupt everyone’s life so much on this day. My question always is, “Why did she think she didn’t need a rope?” Two possibilities: a) she simply didn’t know there would be vertical obstacles, and b) somebody suggested she would not need one. Ignorance in the backcountry is somewhat inexcusable, though she may have been following an “informed” leader she trusted. More likely, however, somebody told her or her group she didn’t need a rope, and I’d love (as the NPS would) to set the record straight.

Without question, many people descend The Subway each year without ropes, via jumping, climbing, or other means, which proves you don’t NEED a rope to hike the Subway. But each year, a handful of folks hurt themselves – in the Subway, the Narrows, and other canyons – to the extent they need a helicopter rescue, not to mention all the others who manage to self-rescue out of the canyon on their sprained ankles, torn ACLs, etc. Which proves that going without a rope is risky and ill-advised.

Please, if you are thinking about descending The Subway, take a rope along with you and know how to use it. It needs to be about 60 feet long, double the length of the longest rappel. Not only will your descent go more smoothly, but you’ll save the time, money, and efforts of the 10 – 20 folks who might otherwise need to rescue you.

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