Narrows Injury Highlights Importance of Good Equipment

Picked up this story from Narrows hiker Glenn Jones (below) on the Yahoo Canyons Group. Though Glenn wasn’t intentionally advertising for us, his story tells a convincing story about why proper footwear and a sturdy hiking stick are so helpful in The Narrows.

Even shallow water can be treacherous

“Do we really need the rent equipment to hike The Narrows?” We hear this question often in our store, and our answer is always the same: No, you absolutely don’t need to rent equipment to hike The Narrows, but investing in gear innovated specifically for The Narrows hike helps you accomplish three key goals:

1. Greatly reduce the likelihood of injuries from tripping and falling. Sprained ankles are the most common injuries in The Narrows, followed by sprained wrists, dislocated shoulders, all resulting from tripping and falling due to poor traction and ankle support.

2.  Hike The Narrows comfortably. Spend your time and energy enjoying the breathtaking landscape, taking pictures, and enjoying your companions instead of staring at the ground, picking rocks out of your shoes, and fixing broken show laces.

3. Save your hiking boots and/or sandals from destruction. If you’re in Zion, chances are you have many more hikes on your vacation agenda. As Glenn’s story reflects, hiking many water-logged miles ruins good hiking boots. Why destroy your trusty boots when there’s an economical option?

Time and again our customers tell us in person, and the public via TripAdvisor and Yelp!, that renting our Narrows hiking package is not only delightful, but a bargain investment. If you’re planning a Narrows trip, please stop in our shop to at least learn about your options; we guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Big kudos to Glenn and his group for self-rescuing despite his painful injury. Though walking on an injured ankle is anything but fun, there really isn’t too much a SAR crew can do for such a person in The Narrows. I’ve seen many hikers hobbling out with SAR assistance, but never anyone carried in a stretcher… it’s just too difficult and dangerous to carry someone over the wet, slick, rocky terrain.

Here’s Glenn’s Story, edited and excerpted by me for brevity, but all the good stuff’s still in here:

Ok, here is my story. It’s not a big deal, but I did learn that canyons are inherently dangerous and you have to be willing to deal with the unexpected because SAR may not carry you out every time you stub your toe.

I has hiking with a Scout group, 8 boys and 4 adults. We were hiking The Narrows from Chamberlain’s Ranch, camping at Site 12. We were not hiking at our expected pace the first day; my #2 son was moving slowly, so others went on ahead while myself and another adult stayed behind with him. As a result, we ended up camping at Site 3. Shortly before this, one of my boots had broken a shoelace and we didn’t have a replacement, so I switched over to my waterproof Keene (no ankle support).

The next day, we were up and in the river very early so we could catch the rest of our party. We reached Site 12 around 10:30 and found some of our group waiting for us, while others had gone ahead. So we pressed on together.

Shoes, socks, & sticks from ZAC

Shortly after Big Springs and into the narrow Narrows, I stumbled on a small rock and twisted my ankle. I am a little embarrassed by this since the rock was about the size of my fist, and was in about 2 inches of water. Our rough calculated it was 4 miles to the river exit, plus another mile on pavement to the bus. I switched walking sticks with #1 son which helped a lot, and I stumbled on. I enjoyed the deep spots where I could float a while, but they were too short.

We reached the end of the narrow section, just above Orderville, and I stumbled on another small rock, spraining my ankle even further. Now I was starting to get worried, as I could not walk very well at all.

One of the adults gave me 4 Tylenol saying they were 200mg. They worked great! (They were 500mg!) He then ran ahead with one of the boys to alert SAR that I may need some help. Another leader carried my pack for me. We continued on for a couple hundred yards, then found a nice spot out of the water to rest. I put on my right boot to regain some ankle support; then its lace broke. We managed to tighten it a bit, then started down again. It was very slow going. I found I could put some weight on my ankle if my foot was straight and square, but I would not have made it without that sturdy walking stick.

My companions were very good at spotting my path for rocks and sending me to swim in the deep spots. I had hiked the canyon from the bottom a couple of years ago, and I began to recognize some features at one of the last hairpin turns.

As I was approaching Mystery Falls, I met up with Max, a Zion Search and Rescue (SAR) guy. We was looking for a 45-year-old white guy with a red plaid shirt and a doubly-ankle sprain named Fred. All the details matched except the name. Oh well.

Max was pleased that I was self-rescuing. He spotted a path for me and helped me float down the deep parts while I wondered what added benefit this was. We soon made it to dry land and rested on the bench at the landing. Josh, another SAR guy, brought a wheelchair and rolled me out to the bus.

Glenn Jones


About Nick

Nick Wilkes found ZAC in 1996, working first as an outfitter, then a guide, then as webmaster. An ardent adventure enthusiast, Nick's recent exploits involve laying down roots in Wisconsin, chasing his kids around the house, working as a Madison, WI photographer and growing his Wisconsin climbing business. Connect with Nick on Facebook, Google+, or directly via email.
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