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Three Rescues at Zion National Park

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Date: July 1, 2008
Contact: Ron Terry, 435-772-0160

Rangers at Zion National Park successfully completed three rescues between Friday, June 20 and Thursday, June 26. The three incidents illustrate some of the common situations leading to rescues in Zion National Park’s backcountry.     

On the afternoon of Saturday, June 21st, rangers learned that a Boy Scout group had been attempting to access Spry Canyon, a popular canyoneering route, and that one of the group was stranded on a steep slope. The group had entered the wrong canyon and continued up the canyon until one member of the party was stranded 200 feet up a difficult to access slope. Rangers used roped climbing techniques to access the stranded Boy Scout. Rangers set an anchor and lowered the boy safely to the ground.

On the evening of Saturday, June 21st, passing hikers heard cries for help coming from Echo Canyon. Rangers were notified and responding rangers located a party of four stranded canyoneers. The group had attempted to exit Echo Canyon via a side canyon when they encountered a 30 foot high wall of snow which they could not bypass. Food and other supplies were lowered to the party and they spent the night in the canyon. The next morning, rangers employed a rope raising system to haul the party out of the canyon.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 25th, a group was descending the Subway route on the Left Fork of North Creek. The route involves swimming in cold water and several short rappels. Upon reaching the final rappel, a 39 year-old male member of the group decided to jump from a ledge instead of rappelling as the other members of his group had done. Jumping six to eight feet from the final ledge, he injured his lower right leg when he landed on the uneven creek bottom. Members of his hiking party hiked to the trailhead to request assistance. Rangers were notified and three rangers hiked into the canyon, reaching the injured hiker around dark. The rangers spent the night in the canyon with the injured hiker. On the morning
of June 26th, the injured hiker was unable to bear any weight on his leg. A helicopter rescue was organized utilizing the Grand Canyon National Park short haul team. The short haul operation was complete by early afternoon. 

Backcountry users in Zion National Park should be aware that:

1) Routes through Zion’s canyons are often difficult to find. Descriptions, maps, a compass and the ability to use them are all necessary to successfully negotiate routes in the park.

2) Conditions in the park’s canyons change. It is important to inquire at the backcountry permits desk in the visitor center concerning current conditions.

3) Jumping, as opposed to using a rope and rappelling, is a leading cause of accidents in the park’s backcountry that can be easily avoided.

Did You Know?

Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Logo

The Olympic Torch passed through Zion National Park enroute to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics