NPS Rescue Canyoneer Stuck in Pandora’s Box

Sometimes people don’t quite fit through a section of slot canyon. Granted, often people don’t think they will fit, only to prove themselves wrong with enough grunting, squeezing, crawling, writhing, undressing, greasing, and sucking in. But on occasion, after all the maneuvering and masticating, you can find yourself just plain stuck. What to do then? If you wait long enough, you will eventually become thinner. But since that idea is admittedly unpleasant, most pursue other options.

The following report comes from a recent NPS Morning Report, detailing the quasi-self-rescue two canyoneers carried out when one of them didn’t fit through a portion of Pandora’s Box. Sounds like these guys knew what they were doing, but didn’t anticipate the problem they ran into. Regardless, kudos to Partner 1 for finding help, and to Partner 2 for spending a long, probably cold night alone while waiting for help to arrive. If you’re curious to see more of Pandora’s Box, check out this Latest Rave from 2007.

Canyoneer in narrow slot section of Pandora's Box in Capitol Reef National ParkCapitol Reef National Park (UT)
Canyoneer Rescued From Pandora’s Box

On Monday, September 6th, rangers rescued a canyoneer who was unable to complete his planned route due to an inability to make it through a narrow slot in a rock formation. The man and his partner, both from Salt Lake City, had descended into Pandora’s Box Canyon the previous day. Pandora’s Box is considered to be one of the more difficult canyons to negotiate on the Colorado Plateau because of the extremely narrow slots throughout the canyon. After completing numerous rappels and negotiating several slots, the man, who was quite fit but weighed around 230 pounds, found that he couldn’t pass through a particularly tight section. In an attempt to exit the canyon, the two men scrambled out a lateral canyon, only to find that they couldn’t go any further. They decided that the more slender man would continue on and complete the canyon while the larger man stayed behind and awaited assistance. The former completed the slots, descended the 150-foot exit rappel, hiked nine miles to his bike, pedaled four miles to his car, then contacted rangers early on Monday morning. The rangers requested assistance from the Utah State Patrol, which dispatched a helicopter that landed near the stranded man. Members of the county SAR team helped him reach the ship. Neither of the canyoneers was injured. [Submitted by Scott Brown, Chief Ranger]
***UPDATE 9/9/2010*** For a first-person account of the rescue by the guy who spent the night in the canyon, read his blog post.

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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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